Sex and the law

Sex is only legal if both parties agree to it. Sex without consent is called ‘sexual assault’. Sexual assault is a crime and the offender can be prosecuted. 

The law says there is an age when you are too young to agree to have sex and therefore the older person is committing a crime if they have sex with you. The age restrictions are there to protect young people from being exploited by people who are older and have some power or influence over them. It can be very confusing for a young person when someone they respect or admire wants them to do something that feels strange or uncomfortable. It can also be very difficult for a young person to say no to someone who is in a position of authority.

The age restrictions can often be a bit confusing and are slightly different in each state. Generally speaking if you are under 18, a person who is more than two years older than you or in a position where they are meant to be caring for you (such as a teacher or a coach) cannot:

  • have sex with you
  • touch you in a sexual way
  • perform sexual acts in front of you.

Even if you agree to the sex it is still illegal. It doesn't matter if the person who makes the sexual advance is male or female. 

  • If you are under 12, no one can have sex with you, touch you in a sexual way or perform sexual acts in front of you, even if you agree. 
  • If you are between 12 and 15, a person more than two years older than you cannot have sex with you, touch you in a sexual way or perform sexual acts in front of you, even if you agree. It is not considered a crime, though, if the person genuinely believed that the age difference was less than two years (for example, they genuinely thought that you were 16 and they were 18) and you consented to the sex.
  • If you are between 16 and 17, a person who is in a position of caring for you (such as teacher, a coach or a foster carer) cannot have sex with you, touch you in a sexual way or perform sexual acts in front of you, even if you agree. If the person caring for you genuinely thought you were over 18 and you consented to the sex, it would not be considered a crime.
  • If you are 18 or older, you can consent to have sex with anyone. But remember, sex without consent is a crime no matter how old you are.

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