Sexual assault is any kind of sexual activity that occurs without consent. Child sexual assault is when an adult or older person uses their position of trust or power to involve the child in sexual activity. Sexual assault can be violent or non-violent; it can involve touching or non-touching. Sexual assault is a crime and it is against the law. Some examples of sexual assault include:
• Forced or coerced touching, rubbing, kissing or stroking in a sexual way
• Making someone touch them/their genitals in a sexual way; exposure of genitals
• Vaginal or anal penetration by a finger, penis, or object
• Making someone watch pornographic materials/pose for pornographic photos
• Watching, or making suggestive comments when a child undresses or bathes
• Date or acquaintance rape
• Rape in marriage
• Incest (sexual activity by a family member)
2. What are some facts about sexual assault?
• Anyone can experience sexual assault, no matter your age, race, gender, culture etc.
• Perpetrators of sexual assault are usually someone you know, a family member, friend, acquaintance, partner, or someone else you know and trust.
• Although females can be perpetrators, offenders are usually male.
• 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience some kind of sexual assault before 18 years of age.
• Males can also experience sexual assault (by males and females).
• Men who sexually assault males are most often heterosexual (straight).
• Sexual assault does not make you gay.
• Offenders are not usually weird looking strangers but everyday people.
• Sexual assault is more about power and control than sex.
• No one deserves to be sexually assaulted, no matter where they go, what they wear etc.
• Just because you don’t fight or struggle doesn’t mean it’s not sexual assault.
• Just because someone doesn’t say ‘no’ doesn’t mean they mean ‘yes’.
• There are lots of reasons why children don’t tell about sexual assault (like fear of what might happen, not knowing what to say or who to tell, worry that the family might fall apart, fear of retribution, feeling bad about themselves, thinking that they would not be believed).
• Drink Spiking is when someone purposely puts a drug in your drink so they can take advantage of you or sexually assault you.
• The most commonly used drug in drink spiking is extra alcohol.
• There is no excuse for abuse.
3. How can I tell if it’s sexual assault – what is consent?
• If you are left feeling uncomfortable, unsure or confused then it may not be consent.
• Consent is when both parties mutually and freely agree to sexual activity.
• Consent is when there is NO form of coercion, pressure, force, intimidation or manipulation.
• Consent is when you know and understand what is being asked, and can make an informed decision.
• Consent can be given and taken away at any time (even if you have agreed to sex before or have started to be sexual).
• Giving or refusing consent is a right, getting consent is a responsibility.
• Consent isn’t just the absence of ‘No’. Only ‘yes’ means ‘yes’. If you’re not sure if you have consent ask, never assume.
It is not consent if you:
• Are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (impaired decision making capacity)
• Are asleep on unconscious
• Feel pressured in some way
• Feel that the other person has power over you in any way
• Feel threatened or in fear of harm
• Are subjected to emotional blackmail (eg: ‘if you love me you would do it’)
• Are deceived in some way
Legally, a person under the age of 16 years cannot give consent.
A family member cannot give consent to sexual activity with another family member (this is incest).
4. What can I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
• Go to a safe place (maybe the Police, a friend’s place, the hospital).
• Contact someone who could support you.
• Remember that you have the right to make your own decisions and choices about what you need or what happens next.
• You may decide to seek medical attention (to address any injuries, to check regarding STIs or pregnancy, to obtain the ‘morning after’ contraceptive pill, to reassure yourself that you are OK).
• You can decide whether or not you want to report to Police. There are different ways to do this (including Alternative Reporting Options – information is available about this on the QLD Police website). You can decide to report immediately or later on.
• You can decide to have a forensic medical examination, which is a procedure where parts of the body are examined for evidence, if you think that you might want to report to the Police. This is best done within 72 hours of the assault.
• Remember that you have the right to information and support.
5. What kinds of impacts or effects can sexual assault have?
• Everyone who experiences sexual assault will go through their own experience, however there are lots of common things felt by many:
• Having all different feelings. Feeling scared, unsafe, lost, confused, angry, distressed, guilty, ashamed, shocked, numb, powerless, alone, feeling bad about yourself in some way.
• Worried to go out, fear of running into the perpetrator, mood changes, loss of confidence.
• Nightmares, sleeping difficulties, thoughts and memories of the assault, things that trigger thoughts and memories, panic and anxiety, depression.
• Difficulties in functioning at school or at work. Difficulties in thinking clearly or in concentrating.
• Changes in relationships and trust.
• Feeling mixed up about the person who did this – especially if it is someone you know, trust, or even love (like a family member, a partner).
• Feeling physically unwell.
• For children, they might be extra clingy, regress to more ‘babyish’ behaviour, show behavioural changes (these can also be signs of other problems, not only sexual assault).
6. How can I support someone who has experienced sexual assault?
• Listen to them and believe them.
• Help them get to a safe place.
• Give practical support.
• Validate their feelings.
• Give them as much choice and control as possible – don’t take over.
• Don’t tell anyone else about what has happened without seeking permission from person who has experienced assault (unless telling someone else is necessary for person’s safety)
• Tell them that it is not their fault, that the only person to blame is the perpetrator.
• Ask them what they need from you, let them know that you are there for them.
• Encourage them to seek support.
• Respect that they will heal in their own time.
• Don’t make promises you can’t keep, don’t ignore it, don’t blame them or sympathise with the abuser, don’t press for details, don’t expect them to look after your feelings.
• Make sure that you also look after yourself and your needs.
7. What is counselling with Laurel House or Laurel Place like?
• Counselling with Laurel House and Laurel Place is free and confidential (limits to confidentiality apply when there are safety concerns).
• In counselling you have a right to be believed, to be treated with understanding and respect, to be supported in any decisions you might make, to be provided with accurate information.
• You have the right to decide what you need from counselling, to say as much or as little as you want, to feel comfortable with your counsellor, to talk about any concerns you might have.
• Counselling is about YOU, it is for YOU, and YOU get to choose what is right for YOU.
8. What is the process of counselling with Laurel House or Laurel Place?
• Contact our service directly on 5443 4711 (Maroochydore) or 5482 7911 (Gympie and Murgon) for information on the referral process and accessing counselling and support.
• Sometimes we have a short waitlist – you will be advised of this when you contact the service. Clients are prioritised on the basis of need. We endeavour to make an initial appointment with you to discuss your needs as soon as possible.
• You will be provided with information about our service, including client rights and confidentiality, on your initial visit to the service.
• You have the right to information – please feel free to ask any questions or discuss any concerns.
• All of our counsellors are professionally qualified and experienced.
• Generally people attend counselling until they feel that they have resolved the issues that prompted them to seek counselling.
• It is normal to be nervous attending counselling for the first time – please let us know if there is any way we can support you in this. We recognise your courage and determination.
9. What are some really important things to remember about sexual assault?
• That you are not to blame, it is not your fault. NO ONE ever asks to be sexually assaulted.
• That you can heal from sexual assault.
• That you have the right to be safe.
• That nothing is so awful that you can’t talk to someone about it.
• That you deserve care and support.
• That there is life after sexual assault.
10. What are my rights around sex?
• It is my right to decide whether, when and with whom I’ll be sexual
• I have the right to trust my own values and decision making about being sexual
• I have the right to be in control of my own sexual experience and to set my own sexual limits
• I have the right to say yes. I have the right to say no.
• I have the right to stop at any time
• I have the right to control touch and sexual contact
• I have the right to stop sexual arousal that feels inappropriate or uncomfortable
• I have the right to say no even if I have been in a long term relationship or marriage and my partner assumes I will agree to sex
• I have a right to say no even if my partner thinks he has the right to sex. No one has the right to sex. I have the right to say what happens with my own body.
11. Where else can I go for help?
• Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 010 120
• Domestic Violence Helpline - Womensline 1800 811 811
• Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
• Parent Line 1300 30 1300
• Living Well (Men’s Sexual Assault Service) 1300 114 397