Will CASA tell my parents?
What you say when you speak to a CASA counsellor/advocate, either in person or on the phone, is usually confidential.
There are a few exceptions such as if you disclose that another person may hurt you. The counsellor in this case may have to talk to other professionals such as police or child protection about this. Also, if you disclose that you might hurt yourself or someone else, the counsellor may have to talk to other professionals about this.
You can speak with a counsellor/advocate without your parents being informed if the counsellor thinks you are old enough to make that decision. However, the counsellor/advocate would talk with you about what concerns you might have about your parents knowing and would encourage you to seek support from people in your life who care about you.
Telling your parents
It can feel really embarrassing and worrying to tell your parents about a sexual assault. This might be because the assault happened in a situation your parents were not aware of. You might have gone to a party and not told them, or you were drinking and you are underage. Sometimes people feel that they will get into trouble from their parents for the stuff they weren’t supposed to be doing, rather than be given support for what happened.
What usually happens though is that parents blame themselves because they feel they didn’t protect you. They might feel upset with you if you did something they asked you not to, but their biggest worry is usually about your safety. Just occasionally parents are really angry but counsellors can help deal with that situation.
Because sexual assault can have a big impact on your mood and your state of mind, it can be really helpful for your family to know what happened so they can help you through the difficult times. Sometimes people can feel really angry or depressed after a sexual assault, and your family may notice a change in you. If they know what has happened it can help them be more supportive when you have ups and downs in your moods.
A counsellor/advocate can be with you while you tell your parents if that is what you want. In the end, it is important that you have as much control as possible over who you tell. Unless you are very young or not safe, a counsellor/advocate will respect your decision.
For anyone to engage in sexual activity, they have to give consent. Consent can be tricky for people under 18 or whose partner is under 18. Consent involves two parts – free agreement and the legal age of consent.
Consent – free agreement
Consent is when you freely agree to sexual activity. In Victoria, consent is NOT given if you are:
- Afraid of harm to yourself or someone else
- Held captive
- Asleep/unconscious or drunk/drug affected
- Mistaken about the sexual nature of the act, or do not understand what is happening
- Mistaken that the act is for medical/hygienic purposes.
Consent – legal age
Your age is an important part of consent. In Victoria, the age of consent is 16 years old.
The law states that:
- If you are 16 years of age or older you can consent to engage in sexual activity with someone 16 years of age or older except if that person is in a position of care or responsibility for you unless you and your partner are recognized as being legally married in Australia. People in a position of care or responsibility include your teacher, foster parent, employer, youth worker, sports coach, counselor and health professionals.
- If you are between 12 and 15 years old, it is illegal for a person to have sex with you, touch you sexually or perform a sexual act in front of you, even if you agree.
- If you are under 12 years old it is illegal for a person to have sex with you, touch you sexually or perform a sexual act in front of you, even if you agree.
- Having sex with a brother, sister or anyone in a familial relationship with you (like a step brother or sister or a step father or mother) is illegal no matter what age you are.
- It is illegal to have sex with animals at any age.
It is recognized as normal and common for young people to want to experiment with sex with people their own age and the law for 12 to 15 year olds allows two legal defenses for illegal sexual activity.
- if there is no more than 24 months difference in age between you and your partner, or
- the older person honestly believed that there was less than 24 months age difference between the two of you, or that you were 16 years of age or older.