Sexual Violence and Offering Support

There is no right or wrong way for someone to react to an experience of sexual violence.

Responding well when someone shares their experience with you can make a big difference to their recovery.

Believing them, being a good listener, and never blaming them for what has happened are important when offering support.

Supporting someone who has been through a traumatic experience can be upsetting. You can contact Phoenix House on 4153 4299 or 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat if you need support for yourself.

How can I support someone?

When someone experiences sexual violence, the people they choose to talk to about it play an important role. Having a supportive family member, friend or co-worker can make a big difference. It can be hard to know how to respond and you may be worried about doing the wrong thing. There are some simple things you can do and the following information will help you respond.

If you are unsure about the best way to support someone, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. You can also contact Phoenix House on 4153 4299 Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm.

Believe

Listen

Never Blame

Ask Before You Touch

Help Explore Options

Get Help

Reporting To The Police

When Must I Report

Believe

When someone tells you they have experienced sexual violence you should believe them. It’s normal to want to ask lots of questions, but this can make the other person feel uncomfortable. It may also make them feel that they are not believed. Before asking, listen.

Listen

Some people want to talk about what happened to them straight away and some people do not. Listen without interrupting or talking too much, and don’t judge when they are ready to talk.

Never Blame

A person who has experienced sexual violence is never to blame for what happened. It doesn’t matter what a person was wearing or if they were drunk or on drugs, sexual violence is never OK. Someone’s age, cultural background or relationship to the person or people who hurt them are never excuses for sexual violence.

Ask Before You Touch

After experiencing sexual violence some people do not want to be touched. As a support person, you may want to offer comfort by putting your arm around them or giving them a hug. It is important to ask first. Physical touching without seeking the person’s permission may bring back bad memories from the assault.

Help Explore Options

It’s important that someone who has been sexually assaulted has as much control as possible over what they do next. You can help by finding out about support services and how to use them. After an assault it can be difficult to think about these things straight away. Your support with finding and contacting services can be a good place to start if this is something they want to do.

You can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat for referral to appropriate services. You can also contact Phoenix House on 4153 4299 Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm.

Get Help

It’s normal to feel upset when a person close to you goes through something violent and traumatic. Don’t ignore how you are feeling — ask for help when you need it. As a support person, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 on through online chat. You can also contact Phoenix House on 4153 4299 Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm.

Reporting To The Police

It can be a hard choice to report to the police. People can have lots of reasons why they want to report but can also be very worried about it. A person who has experienced sexual assault may decide not to report to police, or not to have a medical or examination. This is their choice and must be respected.

If the person you are supporting does want to make a report, it can be helpful to have the support of someone who knows how the system works. This gives the person who has experienced the assault more control and choice.

Legal language can be confusing, always ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. Phoenix House Counsellors can help with information on reporting the assault and the law in Queensland.

When Must I Report

Sexual abuse and assault is any unwanted sexual behaviour towards another person. There are different kinds of sexual violence, but all sexual violence is a serious crime.

There are some circumstances in which the law says a person must report sexual abuse that they become aware of. This is called mandatory reporting and it is important to be aware of your responsibilities in this area.

In every state and territory certain people are required by law to report sexual abuse against people up to the age of 18.

In Queensland, If you have reason to suspect a child is experiencing, or is at risk of, sexual abuse, contact:

  • Child Safety Services on 13 QGOV (13 74 68)
  • Child Safety After Hours Service Centre on 1800 177 135 or 07 3235 9999 (24 hours a day)
  • your local police station about criminal matters related to child sexual abuse
  • ChildWise National Child Abuse Prevention Helpline on 1800 991 099.

The Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme provides survivors of child sexual assault with a non-threatening and anonymous way to officially register their experience with authorities.

In Queensland over the age of 18, if you’ve just been sexually assaulted or are in immediate danger:

  • get to a safe place
  • phone Triple Zero (000)

Once you are out of immediate danger, you can contact the Sexual Assault Helpline on 1800 010 120 for counselling and referral.

Some states also have mandatory reporting laws for sexual abuse that takes place in residential services, such as psychiatric, aged care, and other government-run facilities. This applies even if the person who has experienced the abuse is an adult. In some cases, having a reasonable suspicion that sexual abuse has or may take place is enough to require you to report it.

To clearly understand your responsibilities when it comes to mandatory reporting it is best to get personal advice by visiting https://www.qld.gov.au/community/getting-support-health-social-issue/reporting-abuse