Your rights and options after a recent sexual assault

Sexual assault is essentially any unwanted or unsolicited sexual activity. If someone approaches you, touches you in a manner that you don’t want to be touched, that could
constitute indecent or sexual assault. Any, say coercion, towards sexual activity, whether that be physical, financial, emotional, again, means you’re not giving free consent or
permission for the activity to occur. so that could also be sexual assault. When a sexual assault occurs,
you have a number of options. Which could be that you choose to do nothing. It could be that you choose to go and see
your usual health care provider, and get support through them.
You could choose to go to the police. If you chose to go down the path of
having police involvement, and forensic specimen collection,
they could help facilitate that, and possibly support you through that. But would always offer linkages and referrals to counselling and psychological support. Which is crisis management, but also in an
ongoing manner, to help support you through whatever path you choose. In terms of disclosure,
I had to be ready to talk about it. The perpetrator was known to my family and friends. It was hard, for a long time I didn’t
say anything to anybody. In some ways, it was harder to talk to the police because I always had this vision of…
That they weren’t going to be helpful. They wouldn’t be believing. They wouldn’t
have time just to deal with me. But they were really good.
I initially went to the local police station, They were helpful. They gave me the number for
the police SOCA [Sexual Offences & Child Abuse] Unit. And that is the police that deal with sexual assault. They had a lot of experience and understanding. I rang the SOCA Unit. I spoke to a lovely lady. I could make the statement and nothing
could go further, if that’s what I wanted. They gave me ample opportunity to decide
what I wanted to do with my statement. The process of reporting a sexual assault
to police is that you would make contact with the police. Whether that’s by yourself,
turning up to a police station. or through a phone call. Shortly thereafter, you’d be engaged
with a member from a sexual assault unit. Those members are specifically trained in
dealing with survivors of sexual assault. And they will be well trained to
attend to your immediate needs. As well as your ongoing needs
throughout the investigation. Some of the barriers, unfortunately, are societal –
there are a lot of myths out there – that basically make people who have experienced
sexual assault reluctant to disclose. It could be fear of people not believing
what’s happened to them. And I guess, in some ways,
one of the most common things is that sexual assault occurs by an unknown person. More often than not, it’s someone
that you know and is close to you. So there are often concerns around safety
if you’re going to be doing those sorts of disclosure. So people usually really consider it for a long time, before they actually make that disclosure. As a survivor, your right is
to feel safe in the community. When you go home, when you go to work.
When you go out at night, it’s your right to feel safe. And part of that feeling safe,
may be that you need to tell your story. Either to the police, or to a counsellor, Or to, you know, a friend. Because sexual assault is an act of violence and it’s usually very disempowering
for the person who experiences it. So for them, I feel it’s important as a healing part,
for them to be given back control. And to drive what happens for them
from here on in.

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