Questions surrounding behaviour of a sexual nature and consent have always taken centre stage and captured the public’s attention, especially since the advent of social media and cases such as Kristy Fraser-Kirk and David Jones in 2010 cemented such questions in the public’s psyche.

In 2018, the pendulum of social justice began to swing towards equality.  Powerful movements such as the worldwide social media campaign ‘#MeToo’ exposed decades of sexual harassment and abuse.  As the campaign continues to confront the issue on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, accusations of sexual harassment and abuse seem to surface almost daily.

In light of this, it’s important to understand exactly what the law says about the nature of sexually related crimes to ensure you have the clearest understanding of your rights and what is appropriate behaviour.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is non-consensual behaviour of a sexual nature with the intention of humiliating, offending or intimidating a person who may be reasonably expected to be humiliated, offended or intimidated by that behaviour.  This behaviour doesn’t have to be repeated or ongoing for it to be illegal; one instance is enough.  Another crucial consideration that many people overlook is that sexual harassment is not a workplace specific offence; it is illegal anywhere you go in Queensland.

Some key examples of sexual harassment include:

  1. Offensive jokes or displays of offensive material.
  2. Sexually based insults.
  3. Repeated sexual advances, touching or requests for sexual favours.
  4. In some cases, leering or staring can be sexual harassment.

Some forms of sexual harassment are criminal offences, so if you think you may have experienced sexual harassment, contact your lawyer immediately.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is where a person is touched inappropriately without consent or is forced to watch or commit an act of gross indecency.  Physical contact is not necessary to fulfil the requirements for sexual assault; being forced to watch something graphic and inappropriate of a sexual nature can constitute sexual assault.  It is a more serious crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

To successfully prosecute someone for sexual assault, the prosecution needs to show that the victim did not freely or voluntarily agree to the sexual activity.


The most serious form of sexual crime is rape, when a person is forced, against their consent, to engage in sexual intercourse.  Increasingly, sanitised language, such as ‘non-consensual sex’, is being used to describe acts that actually amount to rape.

For sexual intercourse not to be rape, consent must be freely and voluntarily given by a person with the cognitive capacity to do so.  Therefore if a person has sexual intercourse while the other person is asleep, unconscious or their cognitive capacity is impaired by drugs or alcohol, it still constitutes rape.

Rape is obviously an incredibly serious offence and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

At all times consider whether your behaviour is appropriate for the environment and the company you are in, and always be discreet and respectful with topics of a sexual or physical nature.  Something that may seem funny or innocuous to one person may be deeply inappropriate for another.

If you have any further questions about these matters or how they may apply to you, please contact us at or phone 1300 FNQ LAW.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information and personal opinions.  The information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.  You must not rely on the information in this article as an alternative to legal advice from an appropriately qualified professional.  If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult an appropriately qualified professional.  You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this newsletter.  We do not represent, warrant, undertake or guarantee that the use of information in this newsletter will lead to any particular outcome or result.