Message from the Chief Commissioner

Crime Prevention & Community Safety

Sexual assault

Release date: Wed 5 September 2007

Last updated: Thu 12 September 2013

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is generally defined as a sexual activity that a person has not consented to, and it can refer to a broad range of sexual behaviours that make the victim feel uncomfortable, frightened or threatened. Sexual assault can include rape, incest, indecent assault, child sexual assault and sexual molestation.

Who are the victims?

Sexual assault is a serious crime that can occur to both males and females. The law does not distinguish between male and female perpetrators. However, statistics show that the majority of sexual assault victims are women. In many cases, the victim will know the attacker, and a significant percentage of assaults occur in the victim's home.

Sexual abuse and children

It can be very difficult for law enforcement and other agencies to detect child abuse without the help of victims and those who are close to them. Any information, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you, could help protect a child.

Whilst all police have a role in protection of children, clear areas of responsibility have been established for the investigation of child abuse matters. The Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Unit (SOCA) members work closely with the Department of Human Services (Child Protection).  A set of protocols have been developed between Victoria Police and the Department of Human Services to assist protective workers and police in ensuring that a coordinated response is provided during protective and criminal investigations of child abuse. 

Reporting the crime

Sexual assault is known to be an underreported crime. Victims of sexual assault experience a range of feelings and reactions, and many people do not report sexual assaults due to emotions such as fear, shame and self-blame. Concerns about reprisals, medical and legal procedures, social attitudes and responses from family and friends may prevent someone from seeking the help they need.

Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Units (SOCA)

Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Units are staffed by experienced and qualified police members specially trained to assist with responding to and investigating sexual assault and child abuse. The main role of these units is to provide an initial response to victims of sexual assault and physical assault on children by:

  • Attending to the welfare of the victim.
  • Obtaining a statement from a victim/witness for evidentiary purposes.
  • Completing and submitting the relevant reports.
  • Interviewing offenders for minor sexual and physical assaults after consultation and in liaison with the relevant Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU).

Regional contact details and further information is available from the Sexual Offences & Child Abuse Units link on the right side of this page.

The Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Sexual Assault

When responding to sexual assault, police members are guided by a set of guidelines known as The Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Sexual Assault. For further information, download the Code of Practice from the link on the right side of this page.

Seeking help

Sexual assault is never the fault or responsibility of the victim/survivor. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, either recently or in the past, you have a right to report it to police and receive legal protection. There are also a range of services that can provide support, referrals and counselling.

For further information about sexual assault and the assistance police can provide visit the links on the right side of this page.

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