Support for Sexual Assault
Deciding to seek help after sexual assault is really tough. Since victims have so many fears about it, there are often long delays in time from when the abuse occurred to when they tell. It is often days, weeks or even years before survivors tell what happened to them. Usually the delays are because a person holds one or many of the fears beliefs listed in cultures & myths. However, whilst sharing your abuse is terrifying, it can also be empowering. Shame thrives in silence, so by telling someone, survivors of sexual assault are no longer controlled by the myths and barriers listed above. Even when it is hard, telling helps victims regain power and control.
Where to Get Help
In many jurisdictions in Australia, sexual assault services are linked to hospitals. Hospitals have specially trained staff who are able to assist survivors of abuse. If you report to a hospital, the staff of the sexual assault service will be able to provide assistance for you relating to any medical concerns you have, in addition to talking you through options you have for forensic medical reports. Staff will also ask you if you would like to report the abuse to police and can assist you with this process.
Forensic medical testing has greatly improved in recent years, but generally speaking it is most beneficial to report within 72 hours of the assault. Hospital staff will encourage you not to shower, but if you already have, keep any clothing you have from the assault separate and don’t wash it as it might be needed for forensic evidence.
If you are an adult, Sexual Assault Service Staff will talk to you about the process of reporting to police but won’t push you to report if you do not want to. You can always change your mind later, but it is always best to report as soon as possible, as it can be harder to remember everything in detail the more time passes. Outside the 72 hour window of reporting, it is still possible to gather forensic evidence, even up to a week. There is no statute of limitations on reporting sexual violence.
If you are under the age of 18, the Sexual Assault Service Staff will talk to you about child protection services becoming involved if you are at immediate risk from any adults around you. This is because all Sexual Assault Services are mandated by law to report risk of harm to children and young people.
Sexual Assault Services are also very helpful when you want to ask questions or find out more information to help a friend. Many people contact services because something does not feel right, but they are not sure or do not have the words to say how they feel or what happened. If you are in doubt, please call as these services can help you with the next steps.
For a list of services that can help you, go to our services page here.
Supporting a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted
Over the years, survivors of sexual violence have told us that they tried a number of times to tell someone about their abuse in different ways. Usually they tried to tell someone they felt safe with.
If someone tells you that they have been sexually assaulted, it is really easy to respond in a way that does not harm them more. The best response is: “I am really sorry this happened to you, it is not your fault.”
Whenever we respond to someone with this message, we are letting them know that we believe them, and they are not to blame for being sexually assaulted. While it may seem simple, it is powerful and can make seeking help easier for the victim.
For more information on how to support a friend or family member who has been sexuality assaulted, check out our toolkit.
In my State (QLD)
Sexual Assault in QLD
There are many sexual assault support services in Queensland, these are all in the services list, who are able to support you if you have been sexually assaulted. In Queensland there is a 24 hour Sexual Assault Support line (1800 010 120) where you can talk to a qualified counselor about local support services that can provide ongoing face-to-face counselling, advocacy and ongoing support, what options you have in response to reporting the assault (if you wish to) and where the nearest medical support is if you are wishing to gain a medical examination.
If someone is experiencing sexual violence in a relationship, then it is highly likely that they are experiencing other forms of domestic violence also.
There is a new Queensland law that protects the counselling records (from sexual assault counsellors, domestic violence counsellors, healthcare professionals, psychologists and doctors) of sexual assault survivors from being used in courts. The new law applies to criminal and civil court proceedings that started on or after 1 December 2017, even if the sexual assault offence happened before this date. Womens Legal Service are able to provide further information about this new law if needed.
Alternative reporting Options
The Queensland Police Service (QPS) have been working to develop an online sexual assault reporting form, in response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission). This commitment is also reflected in the Queensland Government Prevent. Support Believe. Queensland’s Framework to address Sexual Violence (the Framework). As of the 25th August 2020, this form has gone live on their website and provides an additional channel for victims of sexual violence to report to police. It complements existing reporting processes.
The online form can be accessed on the QPS website (https://www.police.qld.gov.au/units/victims-of-crime/support-for-victims-of-crime/adult-sexual-assault/alternative-reporting ). There is important information on this page about reporting sexual violence and the processes that police adopt, as well as information about the criminal justice process and ways to access support.
This online report form also allows for someone to make a report on behalf of someone who has been assaulted.