All victims of sexual assault are able to access sexual assault support services. These services can be accessed by anyone in the community without the requirement to contact police. Services offered can include:
- counselling and support:
- information and support during the investigation process:
- medical assistance and treatment:
- emergency housing:
- assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal: and
- information and counselling for friends and family members.
A Detective from the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) or Counsellor from the Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) can assist you in obtaining the support and help you need.
The After-Hours Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoria (SACL) provides a state-wide crisis counselling and support service to all victims of sexual assault at any time in their lives. SACL also coordinates after-hours crisis responses with CASA for recent victims/survivors of sexual assault.
The National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week nation-wide telephone and online counselling service for victims of both past and recent sexual assault and/or domestic family violence. They offer an interpreting and sign language (Auslan) service.
InTouch is a state-wide specialist family violence service that works with women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, their families, and their communities in Victoria. They provide case management to women, training, conduct research, and run community-based projects in order to address the issues of family violence in the community.
Safe steps is Victoria’s 24/7 family violence response centre. They provide specialist support services for anyone in Victoria who is experiencing or afraid of family violence. Services include:
- information and referral
- crisis response
- specialist family violence risk assessment
- safety planning
- access to supported crisis accommodation
The National Redress Scheme provides support to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse by recognising the harm caused by this abuse, holding institutions accountable for this abuse and helping people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling and psychological services, a direct personal response, and a monetary payment.
If you have just been sexually assaulted:
- Go somewhere you feel safe, call Triple Zero '000' and ask for police.
- Do not disturb the area where the assault happened.
- If possible, refrain from showering or bathing as this may destroy evidence that can be used in court.
- Try to refrain from eating or drinking anything.
- Do not wash or discard the clothes you wore during the assault
If you are concerned about something that has happened to you at any point in time, we encourage you to speak with police You need not worry about your actions or choices – you will be taken seriously. Our investigators are trained to understand these complex situations and are here to help you.
These languages include: Arabic, Bosnian, Cantonese, Crotian, Dari, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Malay, Mandarin, Persion, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Somali, Spanish, Turskish and Vietnamese.
Unspeakable – Understanding sexual crime
Unspeakable challenges preconceived ideas of sexual offending through interviews with victims, their loved ones, specialists, and the Victoria Police detectives who managed their investigations. Each episode explores a key theme - reporting, investigating, victim reactions, offender behaviour, online grooming, and future directions.
Myths and misconceptions about sexual offending
Myths and misconceptions about sexual offending are common within every community. This is understandable, because sexual offending is a profoundly hidden crime and traditionally many people are uncomfortable speaking about sex or sexual offences. Much of what we know about sexual violence and sexual crime is imagined or gained through mainstream media.
The first edition of the ‘Challenging misconceptions about sexual offending: Creating an evidence-based resource for police and legal practitioners was developed by Victoria Police and the Australian Institute of Family Studies. This booklet addresses some of the most significant myths and misconceptions about adult rape and sexual offences, as well as child sexual abuse. The evidence presented has been collated from an analysis of psychological and criminological literature. It provides a clear picture of what should be considered a misconception, alongside the current evidence of what is considered “typical” and “common” behaviour in both offenders and victims.
The Challenging Misconceptions booklet improves understandings within the criminal justice community. It may be useful as:
- a guide to assist fact finders at different stages of the criminal justice process
- to support practitioners who work with people affected by sexual abuse
- improve general community understanding.
A fact sheet was developed to summarise the 15 commonly held misconceptions described in the above booklet.
REALITY: National and international research consistently demonstrates that incidents of rape, sexual offences and child sexual abuse are significantly under-reported, under-prosecuted, and under-convicted.
There are many barriers to reporting sexual offences and conviction rates in Australia are extremely low.
REALITY: The majority of victims who experience sexual offences delay disclosing and/or reporting or never disclose/report their experiences.
Common reasons include:
- Confusion, guilt, or shock about the offence
- Fear of the offender and of consequences of reporting
- Protecting an offender they know
- Fear that they will not be believed and
- They may not recognise what they have experienced as a sexual offence or may blame themselves for what has occurred.
REALITY: A common rape myth relates to a belief that victims are often attacked violently by strangers and that this is ‘Real Rape’. This is actually very rare.
The majority of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, often in a familiar residential location. They are often committed by family members, within intimate partner relationships or another known person.
Victorian law is clear that consent to a sexual act with the same person at some time in the past is not an indicator of consent in the future.
Offenders typically use physical force against their victims during sexual offending.
Real rape victims would resist and fight off the violent offender.
REALITY: Most offenders have a prior relationship with the victim and do not need to use significant physical violence to commit their sexual offence(s).
Some studies have found very low rates of injury caused during sexual offending. Offenders typically have power over their victims and groom their victims into compliance over time; this is not the same as consent.
During the assault, victims may be more likely to freeze and cooperate; this can be a conscious response or they may not be able to control it.
REALITY: Victims of one-off traumatic events typically recall only a few clear details, therefore, many details are often lacking. Where they have been repeatedly raped within a relationship it will be difficult to isolate the details of single incidents.
Following rape trauma, a person may not remember everything and different parts of memory may come back at different times. Memories are also vulnerable to impact of alcohol and other drugs, to impacts of previous or current injury, trauma or illness.
REALITY: There is no evidence that many women make vexatious reports of sexual offences. The rate of false allegations of sexual offences is very low. A range of studies show approximately 5% of rape allegations are proven false.
This myth about false allegations is harmful for society and harmful for victims of sexual offences. It contributes to under-reporting. And victims wrongly fear they will be met with disbelief and blame if they report.
People who are very drunk are responsible for their own rape. They could have prevented the rape by drinking less.
REALITY: The media often focuses on date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol, however alcohol is the most common drug of choice that offenders intentionally use to incapacitate a victim before committing a sexual offence.
Many offenders are opportunistic and will take advantage of victims who are already drunk and incapacitated. The law assumes a ‘heavily intoxicated’ person is incapable of consenting to the act.
REALITY: Most rapes or other sexual offending occurs away from public view such as in a residence so victims and offenders are often the only witnesses to the crime(s).
Sexual offences do not require additional evidence in order to be taken seriously by police. Judges will instruct juries about how to consider these issues.
REALITY: Staying connected to an offender may be described as a counter-intuitive response but it is also a common response. When we consider that sexual offending is most often a relationship-based crime it is more obvious that simply avoiding an offender is often not realistic.
Victims often stay in a relationship with their abusers. This may be for a multitude of reasons: fear for the safety of themselves or others such as children, friends, family or pets; feelings of shame and responsibility for their own rape; belief they can change the abuser’s behaviour; the reality that they are isolated with no financial support, etc.
Leaving a relationship with an abusive partner is often associated with a heightened risk of violence, including lethal violence.
Offenders often build up a relationship of trust, power, and fear with the victim, rendering it difficult for victims to simply discontinue a relationship with their abuser after an offence even if they wish to.
Judges, police investigators, the media and the public tend to assess a victim of a sexual offence who is upset and emotional as more credible than those who aren’t. But evidence shows credibility is not related to emotional display.
REALITY: Victims are human with a full range of emotions. Their lives are significantly impacted by being raped. Victims could be emotional and visibly displaying stress, could be anxious and irritable, numb or appear controlled. Controlled presentation can be a coping mechanism, or it may be because they have received enough support and help. Victims’ emotions are also likely to change during different stages of the legal system. The experience of seeking justice can also accelerate or settle emotionally.
REALITY: Unwanted sexual arousal and physiological responses can occur during rape/sexual offences, and such responses do not in any way indicate that the person consented to sexual activity
REALITY: There is consistent evidence that sexual offending is a gendered crime. The majority of sexual offence victims are female, and the majority of sexual offenders are male. However, some males are victims and some females sexually offend. The 2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey (PSS 2013) showed that 4% of men 18 years and over had experienced sexual offence(s) since the age of 15, and that women committed up to 1.6% of all sexual offences against men and women in the period 2011–12.
People with disabilities are over-represented as victims of sexual offences, and often face many additional barriers to reporting them.
REALITY: Many offenders will target those with intellectual disabilities or severe disabilities because they perceive them as being powerless, vulnerable, and unable to make accusations or to make reports that will be taken seriously. Case studies show that while some people with mental health issues may make disclosures of sexual offending that appear unusual, investigation has revealed them to be genuine.
The PSS 2013 showed that more than half of sexual assault victims were less than 35 years of age, and women in the 18-to-24 years age groups are most at risk of experiencing sexual assault.
REALITY: An offender’s choice of victim is likely to be based on perceived vulnerability, access, and opportunity not specifically on attractiveness. Older women are also victims of sexual offenders more often than the public is aware. They are just as likely to be assaulted, just as likely to experience severe methods of coercion and, when injured, sustain similar injuries to those incurred in younger age groups.
REALITY: Child sexual abuse is also most often perpetrated by someone known to them, often within familial or trusted community relationships, and it is often committed in close proximity to other people. This impacts on whether children are believed even if they do tell an adult.
Offenders make use of multiple grooming strategies to facilitate their offending. Many children are groomed gradually over time so that they are desensitized to sexual touching and may not realise that something inappropriate is occurring or may have such strong feelings they do not tell. Reactions following child sexual abuse are variable and should not be a factor when assessing the credibility of the child’s account, positive emotions may have an adaptive value when coping with traumatic experiences.
Contrary to some beliefs, children’s accounts are especially likely to be accurate and detailed when the interviewer asks non-leading open-ended questions that lets the child speak in their own words.
Reviewed 07 September 2021