Sexual activity between an adult and a child is a crime. If the two people are a similar age and both enter the sexual relationship freely then the law may consider this consensual sex.
You can see more information on the legalities in Tasmania of sexual consent on the Legal Aid website.
Acts which are considered child sexual assault include:
- Unwanted touching, fondling or kissing
- Being forced to look at pornography, pose for pictures, perform sexual acts, participate in/or view others masturbating, or sexually stimulate another person
- Rape or attempted rape, including penetration of the anus, vagina or mouth with a penis, fingers, tongue or an object
Child sexual assault does not have to involve penetration, force, pain, or even touching. If an adult engages in any sexual behaviour (looking, showing or touching) with a child it is always sexual assault.
Most child sexual abuse takes place within homes and is usually committed by someone who is known to and trusted by the child. Strangers make up approximately 10 percent of all child sex offenders in Australia. It is very important that children know boundaries and control over their own bodies and understand what is and is not not okay when it comes to their private parts. It is also important that they can seek help from trustworthy adults for any reason, without fear of getting into trouble. There are many educational programs teaching children protective behaviours available, including from the SASS training team .
For more information about how to discuss sex and growing up with children, you can download the book “Talk Soon. Talk Often” from the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website.
The more children understand about their bodies, sex and sexuality, the more likely they are to be able to stay sexually safe
Sexual assault has negative affects children, families and communities, but with good support and counselling these effects can be lessened. SASS is funded to assist parents and caregivers of children who have survived sexual harm. The first step is picking up the phone. Contact us here.
What can you do to help your child now?
There are many things you can do to help your child deal with the effects of the sexual abuse. The most important thing is to provide care, love and a sense of safety. Some important ones things:
- tell the child that you believe them and that they did the right thing in telling you
- tell the child that it is not their fault and they are not in trouble
- make sure they know that you don’t blame them for what has happened
- allow them to have as much control as possible over the decisions that are made about them
- allow them to feel and express the whole range of feelings they may be experiencing. Validating these emotions can be very powerful for a child’s recovery, for example making empathetic statements like “I can see why you are angry about this, because it shouldn’t have happened to you.”
- tell the child that you will do everything you can to protect and support them from here on. Remember that as a caregiver, your role is to be caring, empathetic and safe.
How you may be feeling
If your child is abused you may experience a mixture of feelings such as shock, confusion, disbelief, numbness, guilt, betrayal, fear, hurt, anger at yourself for not knowing or not being able to stop the abuse, anger at the abuser, anger at the child for not telling you, or worry about what other people will think.
You may want to know exactly what happened, or you may feel overwhelmed by the story of abuse. It is important to listen and be there for the child. Don’t ask questions that have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. A good question to ask is “do you want to tell me any more about that today?” which empowers the young person with choice and shows that you are there to listen and support them.
Child sexual abuse can provoke many different reactions and feelings, but counselling for yourself and your child can help you through this.
See our fact sheets below for more information on child sexual assault.
You can contact SASS on 6231 0044 or our 24/7 crisis line on 1800 697 877 to talk things through. Note that we are mandatory reporters, and so if you tell us that you know or suspect that a child is being or has been abused, we do have to report this to child safety services and/or police.