Community Education

Sexual assault is a crime. It can happen to anyone and is never the fault of the victim.

The experience and impact of sexual assault is different for everyone but whatever the reaction, it is a normal response to an extreme emotional and physical violation. It is estimated that one in four girls and one in seven boys will experience some form of sexual or indecent assault before they reach the age of 18 years.

In most incidences of child sexual assault the perpetrator will be known to the child, most commonly being a family member, family friend or trusted community member. The perpetrator will usually use a number of strategies to make the child believe the violence is their fault or that telling will lead to something terrible happening. Adults who experienced childhood sexual assault report that as children they felt they had to ‘be strong’ and ‘show no fear’. They had to ‘keep all their emotions bottled up’. Many report hatred and anger at the perpetrator/s and those who should have protected them. Others report hiding both physically and emotionally. The behaviours and strategies that children develop in order to resist and survive can continue to affect them in their adult lives.

While everyone responds differently to being sexually assaulted, there are some feelings that many adults who experienced childhood sexual assault talk about:

  • A feeling of being in a bubble, feeling different and apart, being emotionally isolated.
  • Feeling guilt, shame and self-blame for what has happened.
  • Having difficulty trusting themselves and others, as their childhood trust has been betrayed.
  • Experiencing ‘triggering moments’ such as smells, sounds or situations which bring back memories.
  • Feeling the need to protect others and being over-responsible.

It is Important to Talk About it

You can speak with one of our qualified counsellors about childhood sexual abuse or a sexual assault when you are ready, it doesn’t matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

I have been raped/ sexually assaulted. What happens now?

It’s your choice what happens. You can access any or all or none of these services

1. The Police

Do I have to report it to the police?

You do not have to report the crime to police. The Women’s Centre can provide you with the support you need to report the sexual assault to police if you choose to, or provide you with the information you need to decide about whether you would like to report to police.

Reporting

http://www.police.qld.gov.au/programs/adultassault/

 2. A Forensic examination

The purpose of a forensic examination is to collect evidence and document any injuries which have occurred as a result of the sexual assault.

No-one is forced to undertake a forensic examination. Victims have a right to be provided with information about the forensic examination, to make an informed choice about whether they wish to proceed or not, and then provide consent for the examination to go ahead if this is their choice. Consent can be withdrawn at any stage of the forensic examination.

Consenting to a forensic examination means that the victim has decided to make a complaint to the police regarding the sexual assault. A forensic examination can provide vital evidence, and may be a significant part of the criminal investigation process. Forensic evidence usually forms part of the brief of evidence being brought against the person (or persons) charged with the sexual assault(s) and is presented to the court when the case is listed for a committal hearing and/or trial.

Forensic evidence can be quite easily lost from the body, through showering, bathing, going to the toilet, eating and drinking.  The highest quality forensic evidence is collected within 72 hours after a sexual assault, or sooner. However, depending on the types of sexual acts perpetrated against the victim, and despite the elapsed time, it may still be possible to collect evidence up to 7 days after the sexual assault.

A forensic examination requires the victim to tell the forensic examiner (a specially trained doctor or nurse) what happened throughout the sexual assault so that specific parts of the victim’s body will be examined  allowing  evidence to be collected and documented.

A forensic examination can be a lengthy process and, depending on the nature of the sexual assault, may require an examination of the victim’s mouth, breasts, genital area and anus. It may involve taking some swabs and collecting evidence from within the vagina. Throughout each stage of the process, the victim is informed about how the examination will proceed and can ask for the examination to stop.

As well as documenting the examination, the forensic examiner will make note of any injuries on the victim’s body. In most cases, there will be no visible injuries, but injuries that could be found include bruises, grazes, redness, swelling or scratches. Any concerns about pregnancy or questions about sexually transmitted infections can be discussed with the forensic examiner with referral options provided.

As with all processes following sexual assault, the safety and support of the victim are paramount, so the forensic examination must be a respectful process which upholds victims’ rights and dignity, and restores control and autonomy to the victim through providing high quality care and facilitating choice and empowerment.

3. Forensic Medical Examination

What happens if I have a forensic examination?

At a hospital you can have a forensic examination which is a medical examination that can only be conducted by specially trained doctors and nurses. Its purpose is to collect any physical evidence that may be used as evidence against the accused if criminal charges are laid. You can request that a person of your choice - such as a friend or social worker to support you during the examination.

It is important that victims of sexual assault seek medical assistance to treat any physical or psychological injuries, regardless of whether the assault was recent or occurred some time ago.

The victim of a recent sexual assault should seek immediate medical assistance.

Medical care can involve dealing with the psychological impact of sexual assault, physical injuries, any concerns about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, and possible forensic examinations (to collect any physical evidence that may be used if criminal charges are laid). Please note that morning after pills are most effective taken within 72 hours of the assault. Victims of sexual assault should ideally have a forensic medical examination within 72 hours of a sexual assault, but it can be done up to a week after.

4. Counselling  - link to our counselling section

5. Victims Compensation – A victim of crime is defined under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 as anyone who has been injured by an act of violence committed against them in Queensland (s27).

An injury can be physical or psychological. A victim of crime is eligible to receive financial assistance from Victim Assist Queensland to help in the recovery from the act of violence.

An act of violence is a crime or a series of related crimes, committed by one or more people in Queensland (s25). An example of a related crime is two or more crimes that have been committed by the same person over a period of time.

The Act defines an injury as:

  • Bodily harm.
  • Mental illness or disorder.
  • Intellectual impairment.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Disease.
  • The impact of sexual offence; or
  • A combination of the above.

For further information see

http://www.justice.qld.gov.au/justice-services/victims-of-crime/victim-assist-queensland

or contact the women’s centre

6. Sexual Health –If you have been sexually assaulted, you should consider having a sexual health  check for pregnancy prevention, and sexually transmitted diseases.

http://www.health.qld.gov.au/sexhealth/help/default.asp

 

Adult survivors of Child sexual assault

A child who has experienced sexual assault is taught that the adult’s needs come first. Many adults who experienced childhood sexual assault have difficulty asserting themselves. Many feel they have to look after everyone over and above their own needs. Often feeling depressed, angry, fearful and anxious and feeling like they are always on guard.

Survivors may develop strategies to avoid overwhelming feelings, pain and memories, including:

  • Eating problems, such as starving, bingeing, vomiting food, or overeating.
  • Avoidance of sex, promiscuity, or experiencing fear and ‘flashbacks’.
  • Being a ‘workaholic’, over exercising, or other compulsive behaviours.
  • Engaging in self-harm.
  • Repeatedly thinking about wanting to die.

For some, the childhood experience of violence leads to mental health impacts in adulthood. It is important to remember that the impacts are a result of childhood experiences of sexual assault, and not because the adult has a personality disorder or is defective in some way.

Recovery from childhood sexual assault is difficult. Recovery does not mean forgetting what has happened - a person who has experienced sexual assault will never forget. It does mean recovering to the point where the violence becomes an experience in that person’s life, not an event that controls and dominates their life.

What is Child Sexual Assault?

Any act of a sexual nature, or sexual threat, or exhibition of sexual behaviours, imposed on a child under the age of 16 years a serious crime. Those who sexually assault children take advantage of the child’s trust, innocence and vulnerability. Child sexual assault is committed against both girls and boys. Statistics show the perpetrator is most often a family member or a person known to the child.

What to do if you suspect or you child tells you that she/he has been sexually assaulted ?

When a child discloses sexual assault to a parent or caregiver, it’s important the child receives considerable support and reassurance. Children need to hear from their parent or caregiver that it is NOT their fault, that they did the right thing in disclosing, that they are not in trouble, and that the parent or care giver will do everything they can to protect and support the child from here on.

Hearing a child disclose sexual assault is shocking and overwhelming, particularly if the perpetrator is a partner, family member or friend. The disclosure will often leave the parent or caregiver feeling hurt and angry that their trust has been betrayed. It is common to feel guilty for not being able to protect the child, which is why it’s crucial to remember the perpetrator is the only person responsible for what has happened.

Sometimes children who have been sexually assaulted find it hard to disclose due to fear, not being able to articulate what is happening to them, or often because the perpetrator has made some sort of threat to keep them quiet. Children may not disclose what has happened for some time. Sometimes they may use other ways of letting an adult know which can include unusual and sudden behaviour changes such as tantrums, expressions of fear of strangers or the dark, wetting the bed, sexually explicit play, not wanting to go to school or play with friends or attend family outings. More than anything, the child needs support, comfort and love, for now and in the future.

Children and young people cope best when their family and environment is calm, caring and accepting. A child who has been sexually assaulted may need medical treatment and if the last assault was recent forensic evidence may be available to assist Police. It is important that counselling options are made available for the child, and for their supporters as everyone who cares about the child will be impacted by the sexual assault. The child Safety will need to be informed and they will assist in ensuring safety for the child and other children the perpetrator may have access to.

Privacy and confidentiality

Confidentiality statement

Therapeutic Groupwork

Sexual assault support groups running

Community education - training and education programs

  • PAVE –Partnerships in anti-violence education
  • The Women’s Centre
  • Sera’s Women’s Shelter
  • North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service
  • Sexual Violence Awareness month
  • Training events

Request training for your organisation/school/ group

About the sexual assault service

Structure

Statistics –

Partnerships – Sexual Assault Regional Response Group –Police, Sexual Health, Forensic Medicine, Victims Assist Integrated service delivery – no wrong door approach,

Support link

Funded through Queensland Department of Communities Program Domain: Family Support Initiative: Sexual Assault Services

Outreach

The Sexual Assault Service provides outreach counselling to the rural centres of Ayr, Ingham and Charters Towers each month.  The issues that women have identified in these communities include and are not limited to, lack of transport, lack of specialist services, geographic isolation, wanting to relocate to another town, inability to remain anonymous, and on-going contact with the perpetrator due to residing in a  small town.

Our service is well used, and women report feeling safe talking with someone outside their own community.

To make an appointment to talk to a counsellor in the following centres, please email us nqcws@thewomenscentre.org.au, or call 07 4775 7555 during office hours

 

Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre

A sexual assault counsellor from The Women’s Centre visits the Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre for an afternoon each week to offer ongoing counselling, support, information and education to women.  Currently the demand for this counselling exceeds the time available during one afternoon per week, and the waiting list to see the counsellor is growing.

This is a free service provided to the correctional facility by the Townsville Sexual Assault Service.           

More information about sexual assault and women in Correctional Facilities

Contact the Towsville Sexual Assault Service

Townsville Sexual Assault Service

The Women’s Centre

50 Patrick Street

Aitkenvale

07 4775 7555

nqcws@thewomenscentre.org.au

Sexual Assault Support Services Queensland

http://www.noviolence.com.au/supportsa.html

Sexual Assault Support Services Australia

http://www.aifs.gov.au/acssa/crisis.html

Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline on 1800 010 120 (Free Call).

This is a free confidential service open 7.30am to 11.30pm, 7 days a week.

Useful literature

Brochure – Townsville Sexual Assault Support Service

Brochure – Healing after Sexual Assault

Brochure – Facts About Child Sexual Assault                                        

Events

Sexual Violence Awareness Month

Reclaim the Night

Crisis numbers

24hr telephone support services available include:

DV Connect

1800 811 811

Homeless Persons
Information Centre

1800 474 753

Lifeline

131 114

Sexual Assault Helpline

1800 010 120 (until 11.30pm)

National Sexual Assault,
Domestic Family Violence
Counselling Service

1800 010 120 (1800 RESPECT)