Sexual Violence is sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, indecent assault, rape, unlawful sexual connection, sexual violation, and grooming for any of these.
Child Sexual Abuse
Any exposure of a child (under age 12) to sexual acts or sexual material by a person who is an adult, a teenager, or another child, if that child was older, or used force, coercion, or another form of power to achieve that exposure. This excludes sexual play between children which is mutual, however, some of that sex play might still be concerning and require intervention if not developmentally appropriate. Note that what is considered to be developmentally appropriate may vary across cultures and situations.
Taking and/or sharing and/or using images of children for sexual purposes.
Young person sexual abuse/assault
Exposure of a young person (12-15) to sexual acts or sexual material for the sexual or other gratification of another person when:
- The young person has not consented to see or experience the sexual acts or material.
- The act or material is not developmentally appropriate.
- The other person is 16 yrs or over, or used force, coercion, or another form of power to achieve that exposure.
Taking and/or sharing and/or using images of a young person for sexual purposes, including financial gain through selling to someone else for their sexual purposes.
Meeting a young person following sexual grooming (where there is intent to engage in a sexual act).
Adult sexual abuse/assault
Exposure of a person to sexual acts or sexual material for the sexual, financial or other gratification of another person, when the person has not consented to this with this person at this time. Includes:
- Verbal sexual harassment, unwanted exposure to sexual images, unwanted touch, unwanted touching of genital area or secondary sexual characteristics (breasts, buttocks, inner thighs) with any body part or an object.
- Taking and/or posting images of a person for sexual purposes without that person’s consent.
Animal sexual abuse
Any sexual acts done to an animal.
Online sexual abuse
Online sexual abuse can be any type of sexual harassment, exposure, exploitation, or abuse that takes place through computers, phones or other communication devices.
Forms of online sexual harassment or abuse:
- Sending someone hateful or unwelcome sexualised comments.
- Creating and sharing images of child sexual abuse.
- Exposing children, teens and adults to sexual images including pornography that are placed so that people just come upon it, when online.
- Grooming children for the purpose of sexually abusing them either online or offline.
- Sending unwanted requests to others – can be partners, friends, acquaintances or strangers – to send nude photos or videos or livestream sexual acts.
- Performing sexual acts on webcam without the consent of everyone involved in the group or meeting.
- Sharing sexual images or videos of adults without the consent of everyone involved.
New Zealand law does not yet fully capture all sexual abuse, but the Harmful Digital Communications Act and Crimes Act cover some of these actions. Check out the Netsafe web-site, or talk to us to find out what your options are for responding to different situations.
What is consent?
There is a difference between what the law actually says, and what we understand sexual consent to be in everyday life and relationships. The main difference is that the law focuses on what consent isn’t, and most of us now focus on what consent is.
What consent is:
- A free agreement made together.
- An enthusiastic yes.
A “free” agreement means that when people agree to do something sexual, they are free from any influence, whether this be from excessive substances or from coercion. Consent is not a contract; people are free to change their minds at any time. It is an agreement made in the moment and needs to happen every single time – even if two people have already had sex together before. A person should always feel like they are free to communicate yes or no.
An enthusiastic yes means that people are genuinely eager to do the sexual activity that they are agreeing to. Anything other than an enthusiastic yes is a no—this includes silence.
This is different to the law which assumes consent, unless it is proven otherwise, except in a few situations:
- If someone is too drunk/too high on drugs.
- If someone is asleep or unconscious.
- If there is force, threat or pressure involved.
- If someone is affected by an impairment to the degree that they cannot consent.
This is to protect people when they are vulnerable, and it is the same regardless of the person’s gender or sex. Everyone has the right to be safe, and no-one should have to do anything sexual that they don’t want to do. It is the responsibility of the person asking to do something sexual to make sure that the other person is able to give consent, and is consenting.
How do you check for consent?
To ensure there is consent, people need to have a conversation. We know that talking about sex can sometimes feel a bit awkward, but an open conversation helps to create safety and trust. It’s important that people are specific about what they want to do sexually when they ask each other, and that they listen to each other. If anything is not clear, check it out by asking again.
Respecting what people feel ready for and reflecting together on sexual experiences helps to build trust and intimacy between people. With consent, people can have positive and respectful sexual experiences where they feel safe and free.