Sexual Assault Counselling Service
- A 24 hour crisis response for recent and past sexual assault.
- Counselling support for recent and past victims of sexual assault.
- Long term counselling if requested or required.
- Support for those close to the survivor of rape and sexual assault is important for healing. Family members, friends and partners can also access counselling at Chrysalis. This provides an opportunity for support people to express their reactions, explore coping strategies and to discuss how they may be able to support the survivor.
- Group programs are offered throughout the year.
- Education, training and consultation for service providers.
- Community Education programs to increase knowledge and awareness.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is defined as an act which is detrimental to a person’s sense of self, dignity or safety.
This may include
- Unwanted sexual touch
- Exposure to pornography
- Exposing themselves to others
- Sexual harassment (sexual comments, wolf whistling)
- Forced oral sex
- Forced sexual acts
- Exposed to masturbation or coerced to masturbate
The impact of sexual abuse
The impact of sexual abuse on a child or a young person can vary. Short and long term affects can include –
- A loss of a sense of self. This happens when the abuse occurred during the important formative years when the child or young person is developing beliefs about him or herself and who they are in the world
- A sense of being different from others or that there is something wrong with them
- Loss of a sense of trust
- Sense of powerlessness
- Low self-esteem
- Emotional reactions such as guilt, shame, anger, fear, rage, sadness, grief, anxiety
- Confusion and disturbance. Many people do not clearly remember being abused but have feelings or thoughts or symptoms
- Flashbacks during the day or night or during sex
- Intrusive thoughts and memories
- Nightmares or bad dreams
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty with giving or receiving affection
- Discomfort or numbness during sex or avoidance of sex
- Unsure of their sexual rights
- Confusion about their sexuality
- Believing that their only value is sexual
- Feeling ‘crazy’, not heard or depressed within the family (particularly if the perpetrator is a family member)
- Substance abuse – drugs, alcohol or tranquillisers
- Eating disorders – compulsive eating and obesity, bulimia or anorexia nervosa
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbance, nausea, chest pain.
The impact of sexual assault or abuse on family and friends
Sexual assault and sexual abuse have consequences not only for the person who has experienced the abuse, but also for partners, family and friends. They may experience grief, frustration and confusion or feel guilty for not having prevented the abuse. Some want revenge or want to take charge of the situation in an effort to make things better. Some feel angry with the person for being assaulted. The person who has been assaulted can often feel responsible for the reactions and feelings of the people close to them. It can be important for family and friends to find support. They may want to talk about their feelings with people in their own support network or with a counsellor. At Chrysalis Support Service, counselling support is available to family and friends.
How to help a person who has experienced an assault or abuse
Support from family and friends are important, regardless of whether the person was assaulted recently or many years ago. Family and friends can help by:
- Acknowledging the person’s experience and reactions
- Allowing them to be in control of what is happening
- Believing what has happened
- Encouraging them to talk about their feelings and listening to what they say
- Allowing them to talk about the assault or abuse at their own pace
- Assuring them it was not their fault
- Ensuring that the person feels safe
- Allowing privacy, confidentiality and choice
- Being non-judgemental.
Crisis Line Assistance
Client needs may include:
- Crisis accommodation
- Referral to the Chrysalis Sexual Assault Service
- Information on services
- Information on the impact of sexual assault and self-care
- Crisis counselling
- Support while undergoing the forensic medical examination
- Support while attending the police station and being interviewed
- Someone to let their family/friend/partner know where they are
- Support and advocacy when dealing with other agencies
- Assisting the client to preserve evidence: If the client has been orally raped, ask that they not clean their teeth, rinse their mouth or have food or drink until a mouth swab has been taken Advise the client not to wash or shower until forensic evidence has been collected as this the victim often feels the need to feel clean. Ask the client to preserve clothing and underwear and not to rinse or wash them.
Clients are often in shock and overwhelmed by trauma, they may not be able to readily take in information or to make informed choices. The police may present to the hospital with the victim/survivor and contact the crisis line, or hospital staff may ring the crisis line phone to ask for counsellor to attend, at the request of the victim/survivor.
The client has a 72 hour window in which to make up their mind about a forensic medical examination and a longer period in which to decide whether they want to give a formal statement, but police will encourage the victim/survivor to proceed with both the forensic medical and to provide a statement as soon as possible. Ultimately it is the decision of the victim/survivor.
Sexual Assault – The facts
- Most survivors know their abusers.
- Most assaults are carried out by family members or close friends.
- Males make up the highest percentage of perpetrators.
- Most assaults are carefully planned.
- Most are married and heterosexual.
- Rape is an act of control.
- Most assaults occur at home.
- Assault has nothing to do with physical attraction.
- Rape and sexual assault are not the responsibility of the victim.
- Acts of sexual violence can happen to anyone at any time.
- Coercive sex is rape.
- No one asks to be assaulted.
- Rape and sexual assault is a crime where the victim is often treated as if they are the guilty party.
- Rape is not about sex, it is about aggression, humiliation and power.
- Perpetrators will bribe or threaten their victims.
- Child female victims often take on the mothering role in the family, such as child care of younger siblings or household chores.
- Victims often suffer from post natal depression.
- Survivors will suffer in silence.
- Most people want to believe that the perpetrator was a stranger rather than a family member or friend.
- Perpetrators will abuse more than one victim.
- Children do exhibit signs of sexual assault, but their behaviour may be misinterpreted as naughty or rebellious.
- Victims of childhood sexual assault are often abused by more than one perpetrator.
- Victims of childhood sexual assault are vulnerable to sexual violence later in life.
Myths and fallacies
- Most rapes and sexual assaults are carried out by strangers.
- All women want to be raped.
- No one can be raped against their will.
- He/she was asking for it by the way they acted or dressed.
- Children are safest in their own home, with their own family.
- Most male survivors become perpetrators.
- It could never happen to me.
- Rape is primarily a sexual act.
- Rape happens when men lose control.
- A perpetrator is easy to recognize.
- If a person has had sex willingly with the perpetrator once, you can hardly call it rape if it happens again.
- It’s not possible to rape an adult.
- It’s not possible to rape a man.
- A woman can’t be raped by her husband.
- People lie about sexual assault in order to get compensation.
- Sexual assault happens, but I can’t do anything about it.
- It must the child’s fault.
- Children are natural liars.
Male survivors of sexual assault
Although both male and female survivors share much of the same traumatic after effects, there are a number of issues which are unique to male survivors.
- There is often a fear of becoming a perpetrator.
- Less disclosure of abuse – males tend to introvert problems and feelings.
- A higher incidence of alcohol abuse leading to violent behaviour.
- Higher risk of criminal behaviour, males are more likely to display rebellious behaviour and act out their pain.
- Homophobia and the fear of becoming or being a homosexual, especially if the victim was physically aroused during the assault.
- There is often a lack of support in the wider community..
- Most males are abused by heterosexual males.
- Perpetrators may expose victims to heterosexual pornography before the assault.
- Male survivors have a higher rate of suicide, risk taking behaviour and self-harm after disclosure.
A flashback is a dissociated memory that returns to consciousness. It can be a smell, a taste, a sound, a picture, an emotion, or all of these things together. It can last a moment or linger on for weeks.
Flashbacks can be described in many different ways. Some people describe flashbacks as being like nightmares that happen when you are awake, remembering memories, or re-experiencing the abuse. Sometimes people describe smelling alcohol or perfume when none is present, hearing a word over and over again in their heads, feeling panic or dread for no logical reason, or seeing pictures, like snapshots or movies behind their eyes.
Important contact numbers
Geraldton Police 9923 4555
Police 000 (in an emergency) or
131 444 (for enquiries/advice)
Sexual assault counselling, support and information
Sexual Assault Counselling Services (9.00am to 5.00pm) 9938 0750
Sexual Assault Resource Centre (24hr) 9340 1828 or 1800 199 888 (country)
Crisis Care (24 hrs) 9223 1111 (metro)
1800 199 008 (country)
Chrysalis Crisis Line Geraldton: 1800 016 789
Perth: 1800 199 888