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Information for the community – Updated guidelines from 5 August 2021
Acknowledgement
The Women’s and Children’s Health Network acknowledges Aboriginal people as the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of Country throughout South Australia. We acknowledge and respect their ongoing and deep spiritual connection and relationship to land, air, sea, waters, community and country. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have passed away.

Supporting Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted

Rape is a crime of sexual violence that affects both women and men. To provide support for someone who has been sexually assaulted, it is important to understand and listen what what the person is going through.

When supporting someone who has been sexually assaulted, it is important to recognise that, above all, people need:

  • to be believed
  • to be listened to
  • to decide for themselves how to deal with the assault.

It is fundamental to regain a sense of control over life, as the assault may leave feelings of helplessness and loss of power.

The victim needs to be believed...

This may appear to be basic but it is often the case that the person is not believed, or is questioned in a blaming or accusatory way.

They need to be listened to...

It is unhelpful to make assumptions about what has happened. People need to be able to tell of their experience in their own words and at their own pace.

They need to feel safe after the assault...

This may include providing either privacy or company as needed. Assistance to find safe accommodation may also be needed.

They need a non-judgemental attitude from others...

Do not ask 'why' questions. It is important to remember: no-one deserves to be raped.

They need others to understand the trauma

It is important to understand sexual assault as a life-threatening experience. The trauma is often not related to physical injury but to the threat of violence.

They need to be helped with information

  • about common reactions to sexual assault and understand that they are normal and to be expected
  • about the legal system and choices
  • about what would be supportive to physical wellbeing, eg. the availability of medical care.

They need to be supported...

Sexual violence is an abuse of power and control, and support is needed. Support may include:

  • encouragement to accept help and support
  • validation of feelings and emotional reactions
  • acknowledging that healing takes time – it is unhelpful and unrealistic for this timeframe to be set by others.

Other rape and sexual assault topics