Sexual assault

Sexual assault is the general term used for a broad range of unwanted sexual behaviour, whether through physical force, emotional intimidation or any type of coercion. Sexual assault is a crime. Sexual abuse is a form of sexual assault. Abuse and assault are mainly about violence and power over another person, rather than sexual gratification or pleasure. 

Sexual abuse includes rape, indecent assault, sexual harassment and sexual interference. Sexual activity with an adult who is incapacitated by a mental or physical condition (such as dementia) that impairs his or her ability to grant informed consent, is defined as sexual assault/abuse. 

Sexual abuse can be overt and obvious (rape, penetration, oral-genital contact) or more subtle (inappropriate comments or interest in the older person’s body). It can also include practices such as the inappropriate, and possibly painful, administration of enemas or genital cleansing. 

Signs of sexual abuse include: 

  • unexplained sexually transmitted disease or infections; 
  • bruising in genital areas, inner thighs or around the breasts; 
  • unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding;
  • fear of certain people or places; 
  • fingertip bruising on upper arms; 
  • torn, stained or bloody underclothing, continence pads or bed linen; 
  • difficulty in walking or sitting; 
  • use of sexually explicit language or references by a resident; and
  • changes in sleep patterns, sleep disturbance, recurring nightmares. 

*Both physical abuse and sexual assault are indicated as reportable assaults as per the Aged Care Act 1997*

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