Let’s talk about Sexual assault
Sexual assault can be a tough topic to talk about, but it is something we need to discuss.
Sexual assault is when you are forced, coerced, or tricked into doing sexual things when you don’t want to. This includes any sexual act (penetrative sex, sodomy, object penetration or sexual touching) without affirmative consent (enthusiastic yes by a person able to consent).
Anybody can experience sexual assault no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability. Sexual assault is never the fault of the person being assaulted, no matter their behaviour, dress, or intoxication level, they are never to blame, and it is never okay for somebody to force you to do something you are uncomfortable with.
If you have experienced sexual assault, you might experience a range of emotions and it’s important to know there are support services that can help you to move forward. If you are questioning whether you’ve been sexually assaulted, trust your instinct and speak to a professional who can help, such as the counsellors at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), or one of the QUT counsellors (3138 2019), these counsellors are all confidential and are there to help and not judge.
Busting the Myths
Myth 1: People are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a stranger, at night, on a dark street or in a park
Most sexual offenders are known to the victim – e.g. a relative, partner, friend or peer – so assault can happen in the victims or offenders home, day or night.
Myth 2: You can’t be sexually assaulted by someone you’re in a relationship with or have had sex with before
Forcing or coercing someone to have sex when they don’t want to is sexual assault, regardless of the relationship between the perpetrator and victim. Consent needs to be sought each and every time.
Myth 3: Some people provoke sexual assault by the way they dress or behave.
No one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted, and dressing to feel comfortable or attractive does not suggest otherwise. People are responsible for their own actions, including not sexually assaulting somebody.
Myth 4: People can only be assaulted by a man with a penis.
Women, men and people with diverse gender identities can be sexually assaulted by someone of the same or different gender, by use of an object, mouth or hand, whether or not there is ‘penetration’.
Myth 5: If the person who was sexually assaulted does not say no, scream or fight then it isn’t sexually assault.
We all react differently to high-stress situations. Some people react in a fight or flight, whilst others freeze up and withdraw. Many people who experience sexual assault become paralysed with fear which means they are unable to speak-up or fight back. Remember, the absence of a clear and enthusiastic yes is a no.
If you haven’t consented to any type of sexual activity, you have a legal right to take action. You can go to the police and report it as a crime.
Myth 6: If you are persistent and a person ‘gives in’ and agrees to sex, this is consent.
This is not consent, this is coercion. It is important to understand what coercion is and where flirting moves into sexual harassment and sexual assault. Wearing somebody down or being persistent until they agree is not consent because their agreeing is not freely given (as they are pressured) and not enthusiastic. Getting consent is not a game and getting a coerced yes is definitely not winning. Make sure your partner wants to be there, and if they say ‘no’ or look uncomfortable at any point, respect their choice and stop.
Be A Better Human
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (NSSS 2016, human rights commission), 6.9% of Australian university students experienced sexual assault in 2015-2016. Women were 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted at university in 2015-2016.
51% knew the person who assaulted them
And 87% of students did not report the assault.
It is never acceptable to sexually assault somebody.
- Nobody is ever asking for it
- Saying no is not somebody just being shy or teasing
- Nobody ever owes you sex or sexual contact, even if you buy them a drink or dinner.
- Getting somebody drunk never leads to consensual sex
- Tricking or coercing somebody into sexual activity is assault
Women are often told to be careful about:
- what you wear,
- who you talk to
- what you drink
- drinking too much
- walking alone at night
This kind of thinking normalises victim blaming rather than focusing on the person who sexually assaults them. Instead, we should be saying;
You do not have the right to harass or assault somebody no matter if they:
- dress alluringly
- talk or flirt with you
- leave their drink unattended
- are drunk or on drugs
- are alone
How sexual assault might affect somebody
Everyone reacts differently to sexual assault. All of the following responses are normal:
Shock and denial: You might think, ‘Did this really happen to me?’ or ‘Why me?’ and feel unable to accept that it actually happened.
Fear: You might experience fear of the offender, of being alone, or of not being believed.
Silence: You might find that you’re unable to talk about the assault, or to describe what it feels like to have been assaulted, out of fear of being judged.
Anxiety: You might feel unsafe or unable to relax.
Depression: You might feel sad, hopeless or down, or stop enjoying the things that you used to enjoy.
Guilt and blame: You might ask yourself, ‘Why did I go there/allow it/not fight back?’.
Low self-esteem: You might lose self-confidence, and feel ‘unworthy’, ashamed or ‘dirty’.
Isolation: You might want to be alone, and to isolate yourself from family and friends.
Nightmares and flashbacks: You might have images and memories of the assault intrude on your daily life and sleep.
Mood swings: You might find that your mood changes quickly from anger and rage, to tears and despair, and back again.
Loss of confidence: You might worry about your ability to do your work or study, or lack confidence with friends or your partner.
Loss of trust: You might find it hard to trust people in your social circle or family.
PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder): You might experience a particular set of reactions such as reliving the traumatic event with intrusive thoughts or memories, or feeling emotionally numb.
What to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s not something you have to live with on your own. Here are some things you can do straight away:
Ensure that you are safe
If you’re in immediate danger, or you’re worried about your safety, contact emergency services on 000 immediately and try to get to somewhere safe.
Talk to someone
This can be tough but is really important for your support and recovery. Find someone you can talk to, such as a friend or family member, or a professional like a QUT or external counsellor or psychologist. Contact an organisation in your state or territory that can give you relevant information on seeking help. Check out 5 tips for talking to someone you trust for more info.
Get confidential help
Call the confidential 24-hour 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) line to talk with experienced counsellors or make an appointment with QUT counselling.
Get medical help
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it's possible to get medical support. If you decide to, try to get to a hospital or health centre where they can give you appropriate medical care, the QUT medical centre is also available on either campus.
Consider contacting the police
You might find it hard to decide whether or not to report the sexual assault to the police. The most important thing is that you make the right decision for you. If you do decide to make a formal report, it’s helpful to know that procedures have been put in place to support you and reduce distress. It can help to take a support person to the police station so you don’t need to be on your own. You can also write down as much as you can remember about the sexual assault to help reduce stress at the time of reporting.
If someone has assaulted you, you may not feel confident about what to do next. Trust your instincts. Remember that it’s never okay for someone to assault you for any reason.
Know your legal rights
You can talk to QUT Harassment and Discrimination Advisers for support and advice on options available to you. You can also check out the Lawstuff website.
If you have experienced sexual assault or are feeling unsafe for any reason, contact QUT’s Harassment and Discrimination Advisers for confidential support, or contact the university’s free Counselling service.
Immediate support in emergencies
Police - 000
QUT Security - 3138 8888
QUT support services
Equity Harassment and Discrimination Advisors - 3138 2019 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Listen to you
- Create a safety plan for you
- Provide academic support
- Can refer you to other support services
- Can help you with making a formal complaint to the police or university if you choose to do so.
QUT free counselling service - 3138 2019 - email@example.com
Or make an appointment online
Use the online reporting form
Security can escort you around campus if you feel unsafe. Give them a call on 3138 5585 or download the SafeZone app.
QUT Medical Centre – GP- 3138 2321, Level 4 X Block, KG – 3138 3161 Level 2 U Block
Read more about:
Being an Active Bystander