«May 2012 Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people This booklet covers what you can and can’t do because of your age Am I old enough? ...»
See also ‘What is incest’ (page 38), ‘How do I know if I’ve been sexually assaulted?’ (page 38), ‘Can I choose my own doctor?’ (page 47), ‘Do I need my parents’ permission to get contraception?’ (page 49), ‘Girls: What are my options if I’m pregnant?’ (page 49), ‘Are there age limits for getting an abortion?’ (page 50).
Violence and sexual assault There are many different types of violence, including sexual assault and incest, bullying and family violence. Violence can happen to a person at any age and can come from a complete stranger or from someone that person knows. Violence isn’t just physical abuse. It can also include emotional abuse, like teasing, threats or stalking. Specifically, sexual assault is when someone behaves towards you in a sexual way that makes you feel uncomfortable, frightened or intimidated.
Violence can have a very bad effect on a person, whether that person experienced it or saw it happen to other people. You don’t have to put up with violence of any kind. There are things you can do. You can talk to someone you trust or one of the services listed in this booklet. You can also ring the police and you may be able to take out a personal safety intervention order. A personal safety intervention order is a court order to stop someone being violent towards you. This could include stopping the person from threatening you, contacting you or coming near you.
If a family member is being violent towards you, you may be able to take out a family violence intervention order.
Getting a family violence intervention order A family violence intervention order is a court order that says a family member (which includes a boyfriend or girlfriend) must not harass or harm you. You can also ask that the person doesn’t come near you or doesn’t get their friends to harass you. The police can arrest the person if they disobey the order.
If a family member has been violent with you, you can get help Relationships to apply for a family violence intervention order. If you’re under 18, it’s a good idea to apply in the Children’s Court.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people
• 18 and older – you can apply in your own name • 14 to 17 – you can only apply in your name if the court allows it.
You should go to the Children’s Court to ask. The court staff will help you with this.
Otherwise your parents or guardian or the police can apply for you.
Another adult can apply in your name if your parent writes a letter to say this is okay or if the court agrees to it.
You can get legal advice before applying for an intervention order.
However, the court staff will help you to fill out the application. You do not need a lawyer to do this. See also ‘Where to get help’ on page 83.
What is incest?
Incest is sex between family members: between siblings, between a child and parent, between a child and grandparent. It’s illegal whether you consent to it (agree) or not and no matter how young or old you are. It’s still incest even if a person isn’t related to you by blood but is a close family member, like your stepfather. You also can’t have a sexual relationship with a de facto partner of your father or mother while you’re under 18.
How do I know if I’ve been sexually assaulted?
If someone has sex with you or touches you sexually and you don’t consent (agree) to this, that person is breaking the law. The police can charge them with a criminal offence. This is the case even if you started having sex with that person or agreed to be touched sexually but then changed your mind. If you’re asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or drugs that you can’t agree, it’s still sexual assault. Sexual assault is never your fault.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted you can call the police (dial 000 or your local police station). The police have special units that investigate sexual assault and child abuse. You can also call the Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) for support and information, see page 41.
You could be charged by the police with producing child pornography if:
• you take a nude or semi-nude picture of a person under 18, even if that person is your friend and they consent (agree) to the picture being taken • you take photos or video of a person under 18 involved in sexual activity or posing in an indecent sexual manner (or who looks like they are).
Mobile phone pictures and the risks of ‘sexting’ Sexting is where nude, semi nude, or sexual photos are taken or sent on a mobile phone. This is a crime if the photo includes a person under
18. Sexting has led to police in Victoria charging young people with child pornography offences.
The police could also charge you with possessing child pornography if you go onto the internet and download pornography containing images of people under 18. If you put a pornographic photo or video on the internet or your phone, print a photo, or email or text it to a friend, you could be charged with publishing or transmitting child pornography. You could be charged even if you’re the same age or younger than the person in the picture or video.
People found guilty of sexual offences or child pornography can Relationships get serious penalties and are stopped from working or volunteering with children.
See also ‘Cyberbullying’ (page 12), Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people Think carefully about what can happen if you take or send pictures of you or your friends on your mobile phone, especially if they’re not fully dressed and even if they agree. Taking, sending or receiving sexual images of anyone under 18 is illegal (this includes sending sexual images of yourself if you are under 18).
It may seem like harmless fun, but once you send pictures electronically they become part of your ‘digital footprint’ and this lasts forever. You can’t control who sees a photo of you once you have sent it by text or email or posted it online. Sexting could damage your career prospects or relationships.
If you take, send or receive sexual images of anyone under 18 you could be charged and if found guilty, have your details permanently recorded on a register of sex offenders.
Am I old enough to get married?
If you’re 16 or 17 you can only get married if:
• your parents or guardian agree • your boyfriend or girlfriend is at least 18 • a court agrees that your situation is special enough to allow the two of you to get married – pregnancy may not be enough.
The court considers things like how long you have been together, your maturity, your financial situation and how independent you are from your parents. If the court agrees that you can marry, you have three months to do so. See ‘Where to get help and information’ on page 41.
You can get married without anyone else’s permission at 18.
Where to get more help and information Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) – call 9635 3610 or call the 24-hour Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292 (free call) or visit www.casa.org.au Domestic Violence Resource Centre – call 9486 9866 or visit www.dvrcv.org.au Family Planning Victoria – visit www.sexlife.net.au and click on ‘Youthcentre’ Gay and Lesbian Switchboard – counselling, information and referral service. Call 9663 2939 or 1800 184 527 (country callers) or visit www.switchboard.org.au Magistrates’ Court of Victoria – visit www.magistratescourt.vic.gov.au and go to the Family Law page for information about getting married if you’re a minor (under 18) Transgender Victoria – for support and advice call 9517 6613 or visit www.transgendervictoria.com Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service of Victoria – 24-hour crisis support and referrals to safe accommodation. Call 9322 3555 or 1800 015 188 (country callers) information for young people about relationships and sexuality – visit http://au.reachout.com
You might want a copy of our free booklets:
• You and family law: A short guide • Sexual assault, the law, your rights as a victim For copies call 9269 0223 or visit www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/publications Victoria Legal Aid Legal Help – call 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (country callers), Monday to Friday, 8.45 am to 5.15 pm Relationships There are many different kinds of families. We’re born into families and develop our identities within the family. This section looks at your rights to information about your identity and what happens when families break down.
Family breakdown – what will happen to me?
If your parents are splitting up, or have split up, things can be pretty tough and confusing. Your parents might need to work things out like where you will live, who you will live with and what time you’ll spend with each parent and your brothers and sisters. The law says your ‘best interests’ are the most important thing. Working out what is in your best interests can be quite hard. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get what you want, although the court will always take this into account, as well as the needs of other family members. Each family is unique so there are many different arrangements that can be made.
As a general rule the law says:
• it’s in your best interests to have a relationship and spend time with each of your parents, and your brothers and sisters (how and when this happens depends on your family’s circumstances) • your parents are responsible for your financial support, as far as they possibly can be.
What can I expect if my parents go to court?
If your parents go to court to sort things out, the court will want to know if they have made suitable arrangements for you. The court may ask that you talk to a counsellor or other professional about what you want, and how you’re feeling about the situation.
What does an independent children’s lawyer do?
A family law court might ask an ‘independent children’s lawyer’ to look into your situation and try to find out what’s best for you, and then work towards this.
To do this the lawyer will usually talk to you and other people involved in your life, like your teacher or doctor. They will listen to what you want and make sure the court knows this, but the court may not follow your views. The independent children’s lawyer should also explain how the system works and the choices the court might have to make about your future. You can ask the independent children’s lawyer any questions you might have about the court case.
See also ‘What is incest’ (page 38), ‘How do I know if I’ve been sexually assaulted?’ (page 38), ‘Violence and sexual assault’ (page 37), ‘Where to get more help and information’ (page 46).
What happens if a child is being abused or neglected?
Child abuse or neglect includes things like physical, sexual and emotional abuse. If something like this has happened to you or to another young person, or if you’re worried that it will, make sure you tell someone you trust, or call the police or the Child Protection Crisis Line on 131 278.
Some people – like doctors, nurses, teachers, principals and police – must tell the Department of Human Services if they think a person under 17 is being sexually or physically abused, or is at risk of abuse.
If someone believes that a child is being neglected or abused that person can report this to the Child Protection Crisis Line.
The department may take action to try to protect you from neglect
or abuse including:
• working with you and your family to sort things out Family • involving you in making decisions • going to the Children’s Court.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people Sometimes the department might ask you or a family member to live somewhere else or they may put restrictions on you or a family member. If you are uncertain or unhappy with something the department wants, you can ring Victoria Legal Aid’s Legal Help service for help. See ‘Where to get help and more information’ on page 46.
Children and young people have the right to have their wishes listened to at all times.
If the department takes your case to the Children’s Court, older children and young people are always given a lawyer. If your court case is urgent, you will be given a lawyer when you come to court.
The Children’s Court can make decisions about where you live, who you see and how often you can see them. But if you are put on a guardianship order, all these decisions will be made by the department.
A guardianship order is a court order that says that the Department of Human Services is responsible for you, either for a set amount of time or until you are 18 years old.
See ‘Where to get help and more information’ on page 46.
Many families need help and support, but not all families need the department to be involved.
Child FIRST (Child and Family Information, Referral and Support Teams) can connect children, young people and their families to the services
they need. People might call Child FIRST because they have seen:
• significant parenting problems that may be affecting a child's development • family conflict, including family breakdown • families under pressure due to a family member’s physical or mental illness, substance abuse, disability or grieving after death • young, isolated or unsupported families • significant problems (like money problems) that might have bad effects on a child’s care or development.
Child FIRST can contact the department if they think the problems are serious and the department needs to be involved.
See ‘Where to get help’ on page 46.
Can I apply for a copy of my birth certificate?
Yes, at any time, from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
A standard birth certificate costs $27.80.
Can I change my name?
You can’t change your name until you’re 18, unless your parents agree or you’re married or divorced. If you’re 12 or over and your parents want to change any part of your name, you have to agree before it can happen.
You can get application forms from Births, Deaths and Marriages.
It costs $63.30 to apply, plus $27.80 if you need a certificate.
Am I old enough?