I Stay Safe
Queensland Health

Unwanted sex and sexual assault

You always have the right to say NO to sex.

If you are touched in a sexual way, exposed to unwanted sexual behaviour or forced to have sex against your will, you should seek help immediately. Sexual assault and rape are against the law. Being sexually assaulted or raped is never the victim’s fault.

This section provides:

How can I protect myself from unwanted sex?

You are not responsible for other people’s actions and it’s important to remember that it is not your fault if another person pressures you to have sex against your will, tricks you, or is violent towards you.

You do not have to succumb to pressure to have sex. It is your body. You control it and have the right to decide what you are comfortable with. Saying NO means NO and anyone who continues to pressure you after that may not be someone you want to have sex with anyway. Having good self-esteem is important - make decisions that are best for you, and don’t just focus on what your partner or others may think.

If you think there is a chance that you might find yourself in a situation where you could be pressured into sex with your partner, but you’re not feeling ready, practice saying NO to the person in your mind beforehand. Think through how you could respond to what they might say, and how to stay in control. Talk to your friends about successful experiences they might have had, and how they handled similar situations.

Follow these tips to keep safe:

  • Know that you have the right to say NO to sex.
  • Agreeing to go on a date with someone is not the same as agreeing to have sex. It is OK to remind the person that you only agreed to a date if they pressure you for sex.
  • Learn to communicate in a direct, confident way. For example, if someone wants to have sex with you and you don’t, clearly and definitely say NO. If you don’t clearly say NO, the other person may be unsure about what you want. By communicating clearly, there is no doubt. Put the message across - NO means NO.
  • If the person doesn’t listen to you, making a stand verbally might stop them. Tell the person with a strong voice, or yell at them to stop. Use whatever words you think are appropriate.
  • If that doesn’t work, decide on what you think is the safest thing for you to do. You could pretend to faint, have an asthma attack, tell them you need to go to the toilet - and then escape. You may decide it’s safest to go along with what they want. You may decide to run away or physically defend yourself.
  • You may want to enrol in a self defence course so you can learn how to hurt the person in a way that will help you to get away.
  • If the person hurting or pressuring you is in your family or is a close family friend or partner, you may find it easier to talk to someone else you trust instead of dealing with that person yourself. People who don’t respect your right to say NO can try to stop you from talking to others. By speaking to someone you trust, the person can be confronted and might be stopped from pressuring anyone else.

What is sexual assault?

If you are touched in a sexual way or are exposed to unwanted sexual behaviour, this is called sexual assault. This could include:

  • unwanted touching (eg. a person touching a woman's breast)
  • exposure (eg. displaying genitals in public).

What is rape?

Rape is a crime! Rape includes:

  • incest (unwanted sexual behaviour between close relatives)
  • rape by a stranger
  • rape by someone you know (usually called ‘date rape’).

The term ‘rape’ is usually identified with strangers and violence. However, 80% of rape and sexual assault is by someone the victim knows and trusts - a friend, a relative or even someone from school or work.

Rape is usually thought of as a very traumatic experience where the victim has no control and fears for their safety. However, rape and sexual assault may not involve physical violence. Any person who has been forced or pressured in any way to have sex against their will has been raped.

Most sexual assault and date rape occur in your own home, the abuser’s home, or somewhere you willingly went with the abuser. You should not blame yourself if you willingly went with them. Remember, they have wronged you by betraying your trust.

What is date rape?

Date rape is being pressured into having sex with someone you know when you don't want to. Date rape happens when that person doesn't respect your wishes, or thinks that NO really means yes and continues to apply pressure. Sometimes it can be difficult to argue and you may feel like you have no choice. You may decide it is safer to go along with whatever they want. Sometimes it is difficult to recognise date rape as it can happen with a partner or someone that you know and care about. Though this isn’t easy to think about, any sex against your will is rape.

Date rape can also occur when a person you know has sex with you when you are vulnerable from the effects of drugs or alcohol and are unable to say no or to get away. Sometimes, the person may have spiked your drinks with drugs or extra alcohol to make you more vulnerable or stop you from remembering what happened. You may hear this referred to as drug rape, but alcohol is the most common drug associated with rape (including drug and date rape).

What should I do in an emergency?

You should seek emergency help if someone:

  • forces you to have sex with them
  • penetrates your mouth, anus or vagina in a sexual way that is against your will
  • touches you in a sexual way
  • exposes you to unwanted sexual behaviour.

If you find yourself or a friend in this situation:

  • if you are in immediate danger, call the police on 000
  • get to a safe place as soon as possible – you might like to go to the Emergency Department at the local hospital
  • contact the Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline on 1800 010 120 or Kids Help Line on 1800 551 800 for help (or have someone call this number for you as soon as possible)

Your options for emergency help include:

  • counselling and support, including information on sexual assault, follow-up services, and your rights as a victim of crime
  • medical care
  • medical examination which provides forensic information for legal purposes
  • testing for sexually transmitted infections
  • emergency contraception

It is best not to change your clothes, comb your hair or wash yourself until you have spoken with the police or a local health service as these may be used as evidence if you choose to take legal action. It is important to try and keep as much evidence as possible.

If you speak with the police, they will ask some very difficult questions as they need as much information as possible about what has happened to you.

If you decide to have a medical examination, the medical officer will talk with you and check how you are feeling. The medical officer will discuss with you the possibility of pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections. They can also gather information as evidence in case you go ahead with police and legal action.

If you think you may be at risk of pregnancy, you might like to consider the option of emergency contraception.

Who should I talk to?

Never hesitate to tell someone if you experience sexual assault or rape of any kind. There is no need to be embarrassed - being forced into sex against your will is not your fault. For information and counselling, you can contact: