Sexual assault on children is a stressful, violent, unanticipated, and occasionally fatal experience. Any form of unwelcome sexual actions that is expressed to another individual, whether publicly or covertly, is considered an assault.
But sexual assault is not just about the physical act. It’s also about the emotional and psychological trauma that it can cause. Victims of sexual assault often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. They may also have difficulty trusting others and forming relationships.
Children may be vulnerable to experiencing assault by:
- family members,
- strangers the child or young person knows or does not know,
- organisations, or
- the internet.
Sexual Assault on Children
Any act that exposes a child or young person to, or involves a child or young person in the following sexual behaviours that:
- they do not understand,
- do not or cannot consent to,
- are not accepted by the community, or
- are illegal.
is considered child sexual assault.
Those who have undergone child sexual abuse are victims and survivors. According to the Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS), over one in four (28.5%) Australians faced sexual abuse as children, with the majority (78%) facing sexual abuse more than once. According to the ACMS, women were twice as likely as men to have been sexually abused as children (37.3% against 18.8%).
Moreover, studies and data from the ACMS establish that sexual assault on children does not exclusively occur in institutions. The following were the top 3 reported perpetrator types:
- Parents or carers in the home (7.8%),
- other known adults (7.5%), and
- known adolescents (12.9%).
Section 66A to 66D of the Crimes Act 1900 establishes the offences and penalties of sexual assault on children.
Section 66A: Sexual Intercourse–Child Under 10
This section provides that any person who has sexual intercourse with a child who is under the age of 10 years is guilty of an offence. The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for life. Moreover, a person sentenced to imprisonment for life for an offence under this section is to serve that sentence for the term of the person’s natural life.
Section 66B: Attempting, or Assaulting With Intent, to Have Sexual Intercourse With Child Under 10
What if it was an attempt to have sexual intercourse with a child under 10 or assault such a child with intent to do so? This section provides that any person who attempts to have sexual intercourse with a child who is under the age of 10 years, or assaults a child who is under the age of 10 years with intent to have sexual intercourse, shall be liable to imprisonment for 25 years.
Section 66C: Sexual Intercourse–Child Between 10 and 16
If the offender commits an offence under this provision, one is liable to imprisonment for 10, 12, 16, or 20 years, depending on the existence of the circumstances of aggravation. This section is summarised in this table for your reference.
|Age||Period of imprisonment|
|Any person who has sexual intercourse with a child who is of or above the age of 10 years and under the age of 14 years.||16 years imprisonment|
If aggravated, liable to imprisonment for 20 years.
|Any person who has sexual intercourse with a child who is of or above the age of 14 years and under the age of 16 years||10 years imprisonment|
If aggravated, liable to imprisonment for 12 years.
Section 66D: Assault With Intent to Have Sexual Intercourse–Child Between 10 and 16
This section provides that any person who assaults a child aged 10 or above and under 16 with intent to commit an offence under section 66C on the child is liable to the penalty provided for the commission of that offence.
Circumstances of Aggravation
This section also enumerates the circumstances of aggravation:
- at the time of, or immediately before or after, the commission of the offence, the accused person intentionally or recklessly inflicts actual bodily harm on the complainant or any other person who is present or nearby, or
- at the time of, or immediately before or after, the commission of the offence, the accused person threatens to inflict actual bodily harm on the complainant or any other person who is present or nearby by means of an offensive weapon or instrument, or
- the accused person is in the company of another person or persons, or
- the complainant is (whether generally or at the time of the commission of the offence) under the authority of the accused person, or
- the complainant has a serious physical disability, or
- the complainant has a cognitive impairment, or
- the accused person took advantage of the complainant being under the influence of alcohol or a drug in order to commit the offence, or
- the accused person deprives the complainant of his or her liberty for a period before or after the commission of the offence, or
- the accused person breaks and enters into any dwelling-house or other building with the intention of committing the offence or any other serious indictable offence.
Long-Term Effects of Sexual Assault on Children
The scars of sexual abuse can be hidden deep within the mind and body, leaving survivors, such as children, feeling isolated and alone. The effects of sexual abuse are real and they can have a devastating impact on survivors’ lives. Here are some of the long-term effects according to a policy and practice paper by Child Family Community Australia:
- Negative effects on mental health. This includes post-traumatic symptoms, depression, substance abuse, helplessness, negative attributions, aggressive behaviours and conduct problems; eating disorders, and anxiety. Recently, child sexual abuse has been associated with schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and personality disorders.
- Risky behaviours and adjustment difficulties. Those who have experienced child sexual assault may be more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors as teenagers and adults.
- Difficulties in interpersonal and particularly intimate relationships. Increased relationship instability, more sexual partners, a higher likelihood of sexual issues, and more hostility toward partners are some of the difficulties.
- Adverse health outcomes for survivors. Survivors of child sexual abuse are more likely to get sick, need surgery more frequently, and have chronic pain disorders. Additionally, there have been discoveries of links between child sexual abuse and fibromyalgia, ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Legislations for the Protection of Children
Today, there are many laws and policies in place to protect children from abuse and neglect such as:
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). According to the CRC, nations are required to protect children from all types of sexual exploitation and abuse. This convention aims to stop inducing or coercing children to engage in any type of illegal sex activity.
- Criminal Legislation Amendment (Child Sexual Abuse) Act 2018. The Amendment Act’s provisions, which went into effect on August 31, 2018, amended the sentencing guidelines for historical child sexual assault. It also created new offences for failing to prevent or terminate a risk of child abuse and failing to disclose child abuse.
- Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000. This law aims to protect children from sexual and other serious offences by registering and monitoring offenders. The Act requires certain offenders to register with the NSW Police Force and to provide information about their personal details, movements, and employment.
Seeking Legal Help
Lawyers can help families and children who are victims of sexual assault in Australia. Our team of lawyers at JB Solicitors can:
- Provide legal advice and representation.
- Gather evidence to support your case, such as medical records, witness statements, and photographs.
- Provide emotional support and can listen to victims’ stories, offer guidance and advice, and help them to cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the assault.
- Help victims obtain restraining orders.
- Help victims access victim services.
- Advocate for victims’ rights.
Contact us today.