The Definition of Sexual Assault

The crime of sexual assault replaces what used to be termed indecent assault in South African law.

People may not use their marriage as an excuse to sexually assault their partners

Sexual assault is the sexual violation of a person without their consent and includes threats of sexual violation. Sexual violation is:

  • Direct or indirect contact between the genitals, anus or female breasts of one person and another part of the body of another person, animal or object, for example: touching a woman’s breasts without her consent
  • Contact with the mouth of one person and
    • the mouth of another person, for example: Kissing someone without their consent
    • the genitals, anus or breasts of another person
    • any other part of another person’s body in a way that causes sexual arousal
    • any object that resembles the genitals, anus or breasts, for example: sex toys
    • the genital organs or anus of an animal
    • inserting an object that resembles human or animal genitals, for example a dildo into a person’s mouth
    • Masturbating someone with the mouth without their consent

There are related crimes:

Compelled sexual assault

  • When one person forces another to commit these acts on somebody else

Compelled self-sexual assault

  • Forcing someone to masturbate themselves
  • Forcing someone to act in a way that is sexually arousing or degrading
  • Forcing someone to penetrate their own genitals or anus, either with a finger or an object

Similar sexual offences that are committed against adults, children or mentally disabled people:

  • Exposing genital organs, anus or female breasts to others (flashing) without their consent
  • Forcing others to watch sex-acts, self-masturbation or sex crimes without their consent

It is also a crime, called Bestiality, if

  • Someone puts his genital organs into the mouth, anus or genital organs of an animal
  • Someone puts the genital organs of an animal into their own mouth, genital organs or anus
  • Someone masturbates an animal

If you are in a situation where you are unsure whether a crime has been committed, please contact a legal centre for advice

For more information on the Sexual Offences Act, click here