Rape and Sexual Assault

What is rape/sexual assault?

Rape and sexual assault are crimes of power and control over another person, and can involve any unwanted sexual attention or sexual contact, from harassment to rape.

Sex offenders may use a variety of tactics to groom and intimidate their victims, including threats, manipulation, blackmail, bribes, alcohol, drink-spiking, and violence. Some sex offenders will use mobile phone cameras to film their sexual offences. , In most cases, the sex offender is known to the victim but may also be a stranger

There is no ‘typical’ victim and no typical sex-offender. Anyone of any age, race, gender, social and cultural background, or physical appearance may be sexually assaulted. Patriarchal views of society imply that the way a person looks, dresses, acts or speaks may invite or encourage sexual assault. Regardless of any of these factors, it is always important to remember that rape/sexual assault is never the fault of the victim – the sex offender is always solely responsible for sexual assault.

Just as there are no ‘typical’ victims of sexual assault, there is also no ‘typical’ reaction. As with any other form of trauma, each individual will react differently to the sexual assault both at the time it occurs, and in the time following.

There is no right or wrong way to react during a sexual assault – whatever you did in that moment was the right thing to do, as it enabled you to survive the attack.

What are the effects of rape and/or sexual assault?

The effects of sexual assault vary greatly from one individual to the next, and may be experienced in the short-term or in the long-term. Effects may be noticed immediately following a sexual assault, or may not surface for weeks, months, or even years after the initial assault. Some effects may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Physical effects:

–          General soreness or pain

–          Genital discomfort

–          Tension/migraine headaches

–          Fatigue/exhaustion

–          Impaired memory

–          Sleep disturbances

–          Changes in eating habits

–          Bladder infections

–          Heart palpitations

–          Breathing difficulties

–          Lowered resistance to infection

–          Muscular tension

Emotional/Psychological effects:

–          Feelings of being damaged and worthless

–          Fear

–          Grief

–          Sadness

–          Guilt

–          Anger

–          Shame

–          Humiliation

–          Anxiety/panic attacks

–          Depression/hopelessness

–          Distorted sense of self

–          Irritability

–          Uncertainty/confusion

Whatever you are feeling, it is important to remember that there are no right or wrong emotions, you are the expert on yourself and no one else can define your experience for you, or tell you how to react.

What are the options?

There are a number of options available to those who have experienced rape and/or sexual assault. It is important that you, as the survivor, are in charge of any decisions that are made. Some choices to consider may include:

–          Whether or not to report the incident(s) to police

–          Whether or not to have a medical examination

–          Whether or not to have a forensic examination (following a recent sexual assault/rape)

–          Whether to tell friends/family

–          Whether to seek professional support/counselling

–          To do nothing

Whatever you choose to do/not to do, is okay. The most important thing is that you are in control of any decisions that are made.

How can we help?

Laurel House offers a range of confidential services, from support through medical/forensic procedures following a recent assault, to police statements, court support, crisis counselling, and ongoing therapeutic counselling and support.

Laurel House workers are able to support you in any decision you choose to make regarding dealing with your sexual assault, even if your decision is to do nothing.

Myths about sexual assault/rape

Myth: Rape happens when men lose their self-control of their sexual urges.
Fact: Rape is an act of power and control over another individual, it is not a sexual act. Rape is an act of violence.

Myth: Women lie about being raped.
Fact: Our patriarchal legal system and those who work within it will try anything to discredit a woman who reports a rape. Statistics and literature over a period of decades consistently report that the false reporting rate for sexual assault is approximately 2% of cases, the same as for any other crime.

Myth: No one can be raped against their will.
Fact: Most adult victims, even those who are not physically harmed, fear injury and/or death during a sexual assault/rape. Survivors of sexual assault do not consent. If it was not against the person’s will then it would be a consensual act. Survivors often submit to avoid further harm.

Myth: You can’t rape a prostitute.
Fact: Anyone can be raped regardless of their sexual experience/lack of sexual experience. Rape is not about sex; it is an act of violence expressed in a sexual manner. Sex workers have just as much right to say no to sex as any other person.

For further information and support, please contact Laurel House (North) on 6334 2740, Laurel House North-West on 6431 9711, or email counsellors@laurelhouse.org.au