Responding to sexual assault

On this page we discuss sex, consent and experiences of sexual assault, this is a content warning in case this might be a trigger for you.  This page has information for people who might see a sexual assault taking place.

It is a difficult act to intervene if you see or believe that you see non-consensual sex taking place in any setting. This page provides some helpful information.

Sexual assault is a crime. It occurs when someone is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts. It is also sexual assault when someone is exposed to sexual situations against their will. The person who initiates the assault is responsible for sexual assault, not the victim.

Sexual assault can also occur when a person is unable to give consent, such as if they:

  • Do not have the capacity to consent due to age, or a mental or physical impairment
  • Are asleep or unconscious
  • Are threatened, forced or afraid
  • Are restrained against their wishes
  • Are tricked or mistaken about the nature of the act, or who the other person is
  • Are significantly intoxicated
  • Are forced due to the position of authority by another person (in all states except QLD and Tas)

If you witness someone having sex with someone who is not responsive, asleep or simply too out of it to consent you should think about how you can intervene.

Stop any non-consensual sex that is taking place: 

Check in with people around you. Take a mental note of anyone who is heavily intoxicated and keep an eye on them. You would want someone to do the same for you.

If there is anyone particularly, vulnerable or out of it take them out for water and breaks for fresh air. If you see them hooking up check in on them, make eye-contact and see if they are ok. There’s some more information about this on our page about caring for each other.

If you think you see non-consensual sex taking place, first try to engage with the person who you feel cannot consent. Ask them if they are okay and if they are comfortable with what is happening. If the person cannot respond, then they cannot consent.  At this point, it is okay to confront the person having sex with them and asking them to stop.

You might also alert others around you to what is occurring and have multiple people assist to ensure that any non-consensual sex has stopped.

Consider making your parties photography free zones or if photography is taking place always advise people before they attend.

Offer care and support for the person who has been assaulted:

Consider what you can do to make the experience safer for the victim after the sex has stopped.  How you offer support will depend on the situation. This might include supporting the person by calling 000 if they are unconscious or unwell.

If your friend or someone you know has told you that they have experienced sexual assault or if you have witnessed someone being sexually assaulted, it is normal to feel unsure about what to do. Say It Out Loud have developed the Bystander Toolkit, a downloadable resource that walks you through ways that you can respond to help a friend who is a victim of sexual assault. You can also access help and support from specialist sexual assault services for yourself, to help you find ways to provide support, and to manage your own response to what has happened.



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