Overview

Sexual assault can cover a wide range of unwanted sexual behaviour and is used mainly as a way of asserting power and control over another person. There are also many myths around what sexual assault is. There are also many feelings a person may experience, but there are a number of support services available to help.

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Who Are You?

Many females and males will experience sexual assault, you can make a difference, it's not about being a hero – it's about doing something small and watching out for your mates when out. Watch this great video and you will understand how.

  • Author: Who Are You
  • Upload Date: 2012-04-23

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Factsheet

Provided by Reach Out

We have partnered with Reach Out to bring you the best factsheet information we can on this topic. Reach Out offers information, support and resources to help young people improve their understanding of mental health issues, develop resilience, and increase their coping skills and help-seeking behaviour.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault getting help Sexual assault is a crime. It can be hard to accept that someone you care about has deliberately hurt you. It's not just about hitting. Abuse can also include using force or fear to make you do things that you don't want to do.

Forcing you to have sex when you don't want to, or forcing you into having sex by making you think you will be harmed if you don't, is a serious criminal offence.

  • 'Sexual assault' in everyday language is a general term, which includes rape, but also other offences such as indecent assault.
  • The definitions and labels for sexual offences differ slightly - in some states sex without consent is called 'rape', in others it is called 'sexual assault', 'sexual intercourse without consent', or 'sexual penetration without consent'.

Why do people sexually assault others?

Sexual assault is not about offenders getting pleasure from sex, but rather about them asserting power and control over someone else. Some offenders have been abused themselves, but this is not always the case and there is no evidence that being a victim/survivor of sexual assault means that a person will become a perpetrator.

Sexual assault is a crime and is never justified. It is never the fault of the victim.

How sexual assault might affect you

Everyone reacts to sexual assault differently. It can have a range of immediate, short-term and long-term effects on physical and emotional well-being. Effects can include:

Shock and denial

E.g "Has this really happened to me?", "Why me?"; an inability to accept that it has really occurred.

Fear

Of the offender, of getting close to other people, of being alone, or of having to deal with the medical, legal or social consequences of the crime, and of being rejected because of the experience.

Silence

Being unable to talk about the assault, to describe what it means or feels like; afraid of being judged.

Anxiety

Being unable to relax or feel safe.

Depression

Feeling sad and as if things are hopeless.

Guilt and blame

A feeling of "Why did I go there/allow it/not fight back?".

Low self-esteem

Feeling unworthy, not confident or deserving, feeling ashamed and dirty.

Isolation

Wanting to be alone, closed off from family and friends.

Nightmares + flashbacks

Images and memories of the assault intruding on daily life and sleep.

Mood swings

Going from anger and rage to tears and despair.

Loss of confidence

In work, in study, in social and intimate relationships.

Loss of trust

Within social or family relationships. Being afraid or uncomfortable about sexual relationships.

Communication

Communication is important for all relationships. Surveys report that guys in particular are anxious about communication. Many feel that they need to have a few drinks before they are able to talk to girls. Sometimes they might need help to find more positive ways to handle shyness and the fear of rejection.

Without communication there can be no real relationship. If communication is poor or not valued, negotiating the boundaries of the relationship will be difficult, if not impossible. Poor communication can lead to conflicting expectations, especially about sex. Sex without consent is sexual assault - there is no room for confusion.

Stay safe + play it safe

Most violence against women occurs within a relationship - that's why learning how to build healthy relationships is so important. But trouble can happen outside relationships with strangers or people you don't know well.

Think about the things you can do to keep safe and out of trouble. This might include:

  • Plan to go out and hang out in a group.
  • Go with people you feel safe with and who you know have your best interests at heart.
  • Look out for yourself and your friends - good friends make sure that their friends are safe and make safe choices.
  • Have some transport plans to make sure you can get there and back safely.
  • Let someone know (parents, brother/ sister, housemate) where you are going, and when you'll be home. If your plans change let them know.
  • Alcohol and sex can be a dangerous mix. If you are not in control of yourself, you won't be able to control the situation.
  • Remember if you are so drunk that you don't know if the other person is consenting - stop. It could be rape. When you know that the other person is so drunk they may not be capable of giving consent - don't do it - because this would be rape.
  • Avoid being alone and isolated with someone you don't know well. If you start to feel uncomfortable, go with your feelings, and get to a safe place as fast as you can.

Agreeing to one type of activity such as kissing doesn't mean there is a 'green light' for other sexual contact - remember it's ok to change your mind and say "no" at any stage.

You shouldn't stop being careful just because you know the person you're with - you may not know them as well as you think.

Sexual assault + the law

Sexual assault is a crime. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted either recently or in the past, then you have a right to report it to the Police.

If you decide to report an assault to the Police then an officer trained in talking to victims of sexual assault will take your statement. They may also ask you to have a medical examination, which is where a doctor or health professional makes sure you're physically okay and takes evidence (check out the Taking care of your sexual health section for more about what happens).

sexual assault help and support

If you have experienced sexual assault

It is really important that you let someone know if you have experienced sexual assault. It is not something you have to live with on your own.

For emergency situations that require immediate and urgent assistance call 000.

If you just want to talk to someone about it, you might like to call the confidential 24 hour 1800 RESPECT line to talk with experienced counsellors. Have a look at Reach Out's ‘Key services for help with abuse’ page for more information.

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One Response to “Sexual Assault”

  1. lynz says:

    Please no one suffer in silence, help and support is available. Check out the sexual assault factsheet above for contacts of service which can help.

    take care

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