Immediate needs after sexual assault

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


The first priority after a sexual assault is safety. In an emergency you or another person can contact police through 000, and if you wish to request police presence, you can ring 131 444.

Victims also have a right to apply for a protection order through the Magistrates Court, to protect themselves from being contacted by the offender.

Sometimes sexual assault can result in injuries, if you have experienced sexual assault and it has resulted in bleeding, difficulty breathing, chest pain or injury, you can contact an ambulance for immediate attention on 000. It is important that physical effects resulting from the sexual assault and any concerns regarding sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancy are addressed as a matter of priority. Often having a medical check-up can provide a sense of relief knowing that any physical concerns are being attended to.

Support Worker/Advice

If you are unsure about what to do, or do not want to go to hospital by yourself or want help from someone other than a friend or family member, please contact us at the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC) on: (02) 6247 2525. We provide crisis support through our telephone service between 7.00am and 11.00pm, 7 days a week every day of the year, including Christmas and public holidays. We also have a Memorandum of Understanding with Police and the Forensic Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) Service, whereby we can be contacted 24 hours a day to attend the hospital or police station and provide support to victims who report or need a medical/forensic examination during or outside normal business hours. Our workers are trained in providing support, crisis counselling and advocacy, and we can help you through these processes and make sure your rights and wishes are heard and respected. We encourage you to speak with us, you have rights (see section below) and sometimes talking to someone impartial can help you to work out what you want to do and we will support you in the decisions you make.

Your Rights

Sexual assault can leave a person feeling disempowered. After the sexual assault, one way of gaining back some power is to choose what happens next. It is your right to:
  • Seek medical support or refuse it;
  • Report to police or refuse to report to police;
  • Decide who to tell, and who not to tell
  • Refuse certain services or even certain workers;
  • Seek counselling or refuse counselling.
Following a sexual assault, it can be difficult to know which choices to make, especially when there are so many choices to make. It can feel overwhelming, like things are out of control. Sometimes people will choose to decline certain options and engage with them later. For example, a person may not wish to report to police or receive counselling immediately following sexual assault, however, they may change their mind later.

Some family members, friends or work colleagues may insist that the victim must report to police. It is important to remember that if at any stage you want to stop a medical check, a counselling session or statement with police, it is your right to do so. You do not have to speak about what happened if you do not want to.

If you are unsure about whether you have been sexually assaulted

Sometimes a person may be clear that what they have experienced is sexual assault, and other people may be unsure. Anyone who has experienced something of a sexual nature which they did not freely agree to or were unable to agree to, has experienced sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment or sexual abuse. If you know you have been sexually assaulted or you are unsure, you can speak with a counsellor at the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC) to discuss your feelings and the impacts and effects of what has happened to you. If you would like, we can arrange some counselling at the Centre for you, or an appropriate referral.

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