Sexual harm


If someone does a sexual act to you without your consent, they are breaking the law. This includes things like unwanted sex or touching, or someone taking or sharing a naked picture of you without your permission.

If you’ve experienced sexual harm, you can get support from a dedicated sexual violence organisation like Victim Support, HELP Auckland or Rape Crisis Wellington. These organisations can also help you through the process of reporting to the police, if you want to (see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page for these organisations’ contact details).

Note: This section contains descriptions of sexual offences that might be distressing to read. Consider reaching out to a support organisation or a trusted friend. You can also come into a Community Law Centre to get free, non-judgemental, and confidential legal advice – you can bring a support person with you.

If you’re under 16, you can get more information about sex and relationships at – click on “Sex and relationships”.

If you’re under 16 and looking for support about sexual harm, this section might not have the information you are looking for. The law is a bit different if the harm happens to someone under 16, because it is a more serious offence for someone to do a sexual act with a minor.

If you’re under 16, the law says you are too young to consent to someone doing a sexual act with you, even if you say you agree to it. This includes physical things like if someone touches intimate parts of your body, and other things, like sexting, or having a naked picture of you on their phone.

You should talk to an adult you can trust, or contact a support group like Youthline or What’s Up as soon as you can. To find their contact details, see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page.

Different types of sexual harm

Sexual violation

Crimes Act 1961, ss 128-129

Sexual violation includes any penetrative sex that happens without your consent.

“Penetrate” means to put something into something else. Penetrative sex means an act where someone puts something into another person’s genitalia or anus.

This includes when someone penetrates your genitalia with their penis without consent (legally, this is called “rape”).

It also includes when someone penetrates your genitalia or anus with part of their body, their mouth, or another object without your consent, or if they use any part of your body including your mouth to penetrate their genitalia or anus without your consent (legally, this is called “unlawful sexual connection”).

It is also breaking the law if someone attempts rape or unlawful sexual connection.

Sexual violation is the name of the crime. This is an umbrella term for both rape and unlawful sexual connection. From a legal point of view, there’s no difference between the seriousness of “rape” and “unlawful sexual connection”. Any actions that fall within the definition of sexual violation will be taken equally seriously and, if convicted, the offender will face the same maximum penalty.

Indecent assault

Crimes Act 1961, s 135

If someone makes physical contact with you without your consent, this is called “assault.” Assault is divided into more specific offences in the Crimes Act. “Indecent assault” is a specific offence which covers physical contact of a sexual nature that happens without your consent. This includes, for example, if someone kisses or intentionally touches your genitals without penetration, when they don’t have your permission.

Indecent exposure

Crimes Act 1961, s 125

Indecent exposure includes when someone intentionally flashes or shows you their genitals without your consent.

Intimate visual recordings

Crimes Act 1961, ss 216G-216K

Taking intimate photos or videos (“intimate visual recordings”) includes where someone takes a photo or video of you in a private space where you are naked or partially naked, or only wearing underwear. It includes photos or videos of you involved in a sexual activity, showering, using the bathroom, or getting changed. This also includes photos taken from beneath or under your clothing (sometimes called “upskirting”).

If someone takes intimate visual recordings of you without your consent, they are breaking the law.

Harmful digital communications

Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, ss 22, 22A

If a person shares harmful stuff about you online, this is covered by the Harmful Digital Communications Act (see: “Cyberbullying: Protections against online/digital harassment”).

If someone else shares an intimate visual recording of you online without your consent, this is an offence under that Act. The person who shares the recording is breaking the law. It doesn’t matter if you consented to the image being taken in the first place, and it includes if they post it publicly or share it privately with other people.

If someone shares other kinds of harmful information – for example, if someone is spreading rumours about your sex life online – the context and details of the communication will impact whether it is an offence or not. For more information about online harm that doesn’t include intimate visual recordings, see: “Cyberbullying”.

Next Section | Consent

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Bullying, harassment and sexual harm

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online:

Victims Information

Victims Information is managed by the Ministry of Justice and provides links to a range of services available to help victims deal with the practical and emotional effects of the crime.

Phone: 0800 650 654

NZ Police

The police provide a list of phone counselling services and websites that can help victims of bullying and cyberbullying.


Harassment and bullying in the workplace

The Worksafe New Zealand website has information and guidance about workplace bullying.


Te Kāhui Tika Tangata/Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission website provides information about human rights in Aotearoa and outlines how you can make a complaint to the Commission.

Website: or
Phone: 0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)

Information on racial harassment:

To make a complaint online, download a complaint form or find out more about the complaints process:

YouthLaw Aotearoa

YouthLaw provides free legal advice for young people throughout New Zealand. Their website provides great information for young people about the law around harassment and bullying.

Phone: 0800 UTHLAW (0800 884 529)



NetSafe provides free and confidential help if you’ve been bullied, abused or harassed online. NetSafe has been appointed by the government to be a free information service and complaints agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

Phone: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
Text: “Netsafe” to 4282

Ministry of Justice – applying for a Harmful Digital Communications Order

See the Ministry of Justice website for information about applying to a District Court judge for a “take down” order or other type of action when you’ve suffered serious emotional distress because of cyberbullying.


NOTE: Before you apply to the court you must have complained to NetSafe.

Support for sexual harassment and assault

Wellington Rape Crisis

Wellington Rape Crisis provides free social work and counselling services to survivors, along with their friends, family, whānau and supporters.

Phone: 04 801 8973


HELP has been Auckland’s specialist provider of sexual abuse support services since 1982.

Phone: 0800 623 1700

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa aims to enable all male survivors of sexual abuse to access a national network of a high quality support services.


Contact your local support organisation:

Safe to Talk

Safe to Talk offers free confidential contact with a trained specialist at any time, day or night, seven days a week.

Phone: 0800 044 334
Text: 4334

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