Trigger warning

Please note that this chapter (and pages it links to) contains information about sexual assault and violence that may be triggering to survivors.


Suzan Gencay



Last updated

1 July 2021

Most sexual offences depend on consent.

‘Consent’ is defined in section 36 of the Crimes Act; consent means free agreement.

A person can withdraw consent before or during a sexual act. Also, sometimes consent is irrelevant; for example, it is not a defence if someone consented to female genital mutilation or incest.

Circumstances in which a person does not consent to an act include (but are not limited to):

  • the person submits to an act because of force, or the fear of force or the fear of being harmed;
  • the person submits to an act because they are imprisoned;
  • the person is asleep or unconscious;
  • the person is so affected by alcohol or another drug as to be incapable of consenting to the act;
  • the person is incapable of understanding the sexual nature of the act;
  • the person is mistaken about the identity of any other person involved in the act;
  • the person mistakenly believes that the act is for medical or hygienic purposes;
  • the person does not say or do anything to indicate consent to the act; or
  • the person consented to the act and later withdraws consent to the act taking place or continuing.
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