You are here: ACTLawHbk » ACTLawHandbook » GettingHelp

Getting help

Contributed by Penny Pestano and Chrystina Stanford and current to January 2018

Many victims/survivors of sexual assault go through their lives without ever accessing support. They can struggle for many years, decades or even a lifetime with a range of impacts by themselves, and not know that support is available or feel too fearful to trust anyone with the knowledge of their experience. It can difficult for people to reach out and ask for help, it takes courage and strength to make a phone call or send an email to a service or someone a survivor feels is trustworthy and will understand. If you have not accessed support and are finding yourself struggling with any of the impacts and effects of sexual assault or abuse, please remember that you deserve support; you do not have to struggle alone. We encourage you to pick up a phone and give us a call or send us an email (see Contacts and Resources) and we can talk to you about what we can offer you and answer any questions you have which may assist you in taking the next steps in accepting some further support.

What Can I Expect From Counselling?

Many people who seek counselling are unsure at first about their rights in counselling. When engaging in counselling, your counsellor should provide you with enough information to know what to expect from counselling. Your counsellor should be upfront about confidentiality and any limits to confidentiality – for example concerns about risks to yourself or risks to children. You should expect that your counsellor will treat you with care and consideration, listen to your story and not underestimate the impact the trauma has had on you. Counsellors should also respect your strengths and help you to identify and develop them, provide you with a physically and emotionally safe environment, respect your sexuality, cultural and religious background, class, age, opinions and choices, and respect your decisions and needs. Whilst there are many commonalities in the impacts and effects of sexual assault experienced by survivors, each survivor is unique with individual circumstances and your counsellor should take this into account, as well as the goals you want to work on in counselling.

In counselling, you may wish to talk about the emotional, psychological and social impacts which you have experienced as a result of the sexual assault or abuse. Because sexual assault and abuse is a violation of trust, it can take time to develop trust with others, including your counsellor, and it is important that you allow yourself time to develop the counselling relationship. When you are ready, you may wish to speak with your counsellor about the feelings you hold towards the perpetrator, family, friends and others who may or may not have supported you, memories about the sexual assault or abuse and the feelings you have felt about it. Other common issues which other survivors have discussed and worked through with their counsellor have included relationship issues, feelings towards those who could have acted protectively but did not, concerns about body image, feelings about sex and sexuality, alienation, feelings of self-blame, difficulties in trusting oneself and /or others and issues about parenting. Counselling should also encourage you to engage in self-care activities and support you in developing skills and strategies to managing the trauma impacts you may be experiencing, such as triggering, flashbacks or sleep disturbance. It is important you know that it is your choice to have counselling, and you have the right to stop at any time. If your counsellor does something you do not agree with, or you feel they are not the right person for you, you can always make a complaint, ask for a new counsellor or ask for a referral. If you would like to access counselling, you are welcome to contact us.

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre Counselling and Support

Here at CRCC, our counselling services are free of charge, and we can offer victims/survivors with support and advocacy and also provide support to non-offending parents of children who have been sexually assaulted and others supporting victims/survivors. We are client centred, work within a trauma model framework and can provide support to survivors regardless of how long ago their experiences of sexual assault or abuse occurred. We are also confidential – except in instances where there is risk of harm which we can discuss with you further – and workers are trained in counselling and supporting survivors of sexual assault and abuse. You can access our crisis line which operates between 7.00am and 11.00pm, 7 days a week, and is staffed by female crisis counsellors. We can support you in making statements to police and attending the Forensic Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) service. We can provide advocacy for clients through criminal justice proceedings, and through systems advocacy such as with the Department of Housing where the assault took place in the home or the offender knows the victim/survivor’s location. We can also provide referrals to private practitioners and other services which may assist you in your recovery process. If you would like to know more, or would like some help, please speak with or write to us (see Contacts and Resources).

Looking After Yourself

Reclaiming back power and self-determination is important for recovery and healing after sexual assault or abuse. Regardless of where you are in your healing process, there are a variety of things you can do to take back some power, and a good way of doing this is to look after yourself. Self-care is important, and in addition to accessing support for yourself and having any medical needs attended to, we encourage you to take some time out to do some things you enjoy and things you are good at.

Keeping in touch with and spending time with friends and loved ones, whether it is face to face, over the phone, via email or though Facebook, Twitter or other electronic means, can help with staying connected and is a good way of looking after yourself. There might be some friends who know about your experience of sexual assault or abuse who have been there for you and who understand some of the challenges you have faced and who you feel comfortable being around. On the other hand, there may be some friends who do not know what has happened to you and them not knowing brings a sense of comfort, and you can enjoy their company and do things together which bring some lightness to your day.

There are also some simple things you can do at home to take care of yourself. You could watch some of your favourite or new movies or television series, read a good book, listen to your favourite music. You could do some cooking or bake something delicious. You might like to take a long bath, shower or foot-bath or spend time doing your nails, hair or choose clothing which makes you feel good about yourself.

Looking after your body and connecting with it can be a powerful way of taking back some control. Doing some exercise such as walking, running, going to the gym, bike riding or even doing some stretches at home can all be good ways to spend time with yourself and connect in positive ways with your body. On the other hand, you may prefer to do some exercise with someone you trust, or even consider trying something new, like joining a cycling or walking club, or doing something a bit different such as roller-derby, dragonboating or other team sport. Regular exercise is not only healthy for your body, but it can assist with reducing sleep disturbance and is also good for your psychological wellbeing.

Spending time outdoors can be another good way to take some time out for yourself. You might like to observe nature, the flowers, plants and insects in your or other people’s gardens, take note of the weather, plant a tree or do some gardening or go on a walk somewhere such as one of the lakes in Canberra and observe the birds and other wildlife.

Be creative! There are so many ways to express yourself. Sing your favourite songs or make one up! Dance around your house, draw something, do some craft, do some knitting, play an instrument, learn something new.

Some survivors find writing is a powerful way to express their thoughts, feelings and insights. Have you thought about keeping a journal where you can write about your frustrations, your anger, your sadness, your fears and all the other emotions you are experiencing as well as your goals and hopes? Writing about your journey can be very therapeutic. Some survivors keep a notebook or visual diary and paste pictures such as cut-outs from magazines, draw pictures or write poetry in it. Journaling can be a safe way of expressing yourself and you might like to consider finding a special and private place to keep your journal when you are not using it.

Laughter is also a great thing to do to take care of yourself. If there is a comedian who you enjoy or a movie you find funny, take the time out to watch or listen to the person or thing which will bring you some laughter and a smile to your face.

There are so many other things you could do, like spend time with a loved pet, eat regular meals and food which makes your body feel good. Get active in the community or get involved in events you feel passionate about, such as Reclaim the Night. Treat yourself to a manicure or massage, go and watch a new movie at the cinema, have a cup of tea, coffee or another beverage you like and drink is slowly, noticing the fragrance and sensation as you drink it.

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, these are just some of the ways you can practice self-care. Taking care of yourself can be done in little ways that do not take much time and in bigger ways where you give yourself a long period of time out to just focus on you, your health and your wellbeing. What is important, is that you try and do something when you can, that focuses on you and things that can lift your spirits. You have been through a terrible ordeal and the important thing is that you focus on you and make self-care a priority, because you truly deserve it!

Keep in mind that it is normal to have times that you feel okay and times that you do not. It is normal to have days where you think you can face what has happened and days you feel like you cannot get through another moment. Recovery from sexual assault trauma is about helping you to get your life back to a place where you feel like you are in control of you. Beginning to do some self-care is a good place to start, even if it means that you do one thing for a few minutes and build on it on the good days.

This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding AustLII Communities? Send feedback
This website is using cookies. More info. That's Fine