What is Sexual Assault? Part 2

In Part 1 we explored the basic definitions of sexual assault as understood in our community. Part 2 will cover classifications of sexual assault under the law. We will look at how sexual assault is defined under the law, the importance of consent, and the five main sexual assault offences.

Defining sexual assault under the law

In legal terms, sexual assault covers a broad range of sexual offences, from inappropriate touching, to intercourse without consent. The main concern under the law for whether a sexual assault has occurred is whether the encounter was consensual.

Understanding consent

In order to show that a sexual assault has occurred, it is important to show that the act has occurred without consent. It is possible for a person to be unable to give consent under the law. Examples of this include:

  • They were asleep or unconscious
  • They were significantly intoxicated or affected by drugs
  • Their age or intellectual capacity makes them unable to understand what they are consenting to
  • They were coerced or threatened
  • They were held against their will
  • They are submitting to a person in a position of trust

Persons under 16 years of age or those who are considered vulnerable cannot give consent under the law. A person who is vulnerable may have an intellectual disability, developmental disorder, or severe mental illness.

The main sexual assault classifications

There are five common legal classifications to be aware of in terms of sexual assault.

Indecent assault or Sexual Touching

This is any touching in a sexual manner without consent. It may have been touching over the top or under clothes. It may also be when a person forces another person to touch them sexually.

Act of indecency

This is where a person does something of a sexual nature or forces another person to do something of a sexual nature. For example, sending nude photos without consent or masturbating in public.

Sexual intercourse

This is where a person has sexual intercourse with you without your consent, or when you are unable to give consent.

Aggravated sexual assault

This is the above offence perpetrated in an aggravated manner. Aggravated refers to many things, such as:

  • Injuring or threatening the victim
  • Offences which are in a group setting
  • Use of a weapon


This refers to a situation where a person 16 years or older has sexual intercourse with a family member who is also 16 years or older. It is separate to sexual abuse which involves minors (under 16 years).

Professional guidance when you need it

Sexual assault is a very serious offence and should not be taken lightly. If you or anyone you know has been accused of such an offence, seek legal guidance immediately. Powerhouse Law can help you understand the allegations and provide professional legal advice. Call us on 1800 100 529 or send a message online for a consultation.

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