Age law dating under 18
Four areas of knowledge are required in order to give consent: understanding of what the physical act(s) involve, their meaning, society's laws and cultural norms, and possible consequences (Mc Carthy & Thompson, 2004).
In relation to sexual abuse charges in each state and territory, the key difference between child sexual assault and adult sexual assault is that adult sexual assault is based on the absence of sexual consent, whereas in child sexual assault, the issue of consent is superseded by age of consent laws (Eade, 2003).Recent sex education programs for children and young people aged below or at the age of consent have shifted from a dominantly risk-based paradigm to building knowledge and resilience, particularly with regard to contemporary matters such as digital technologies.Public concern about young people's healthy sexual development now includes debates regarding their use of information and communication technologies, the majority of which are internet-enabled.Ryan (1997) proposed three factors that must be considered in order to evaluate sexual interactions between two or more children: consent, equality and coercion.Reflecting on these three factors can help to clarify when behaviour is abusive.Individuals are encouraged to check the currency of any information that is provided by contacting relevant departments or organisations.
This sheet is designed to inform practitioners and researchers of age of consent legislation in Australia.
It is a common and normal part of sexual development for young people to explore and experiment in sexual interactions with their peers (Araji, 2004; Barbaree & Marshall, 2006; Eade, 2003).
Developmentally appropriate sexual exploration is when there is mutual agreement between same- or similar-aged peers, it is non-coercive and all participants have the control to participate, continue or stop the behaviour (Barbaree & Marshall, 2006).
In situations where there is a clear age difference - for example a teenager and a young child - any sexual interaction is sexual abuse, as there is a definite power imbalance.
However, when both parties are close in age, identifying whether the sexual activity is abusive is more complex.
The top end of the continuum may include physical force, threats of harm and overt violence.