Sexual assault is a traumatic and unexpected experience with significant
psychological, physical, social, interpersonal and financial impacts for
the survivor. Sexual assault can happen to anyone in our community
regardless of age, gender, cultural background or socioeconomic status.
Whilst stranger assaults do happen, most sexual assaults are perpetrated
by people known to the victim, such as a partner, family member, work
colleague, neighbour or social acquaintance which can increase distress
and complexity following the assault. Irrespective of the circumstances,
sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. Perpetrators of sexual assault are always responsible for their own actions.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault refers to any unwanted sexual act or behaviour perpetrated against a person without their consent. It may involve an individual being forced, tricked or threatened to engage in unwanted sexual activity or it can occur when a person is unable to provide their consent.
A person is unable to provide consent if they are:
under the age of 16 years (or under 18 years of age if the offender is in a position of power such as a teacher, employer or sports coach)
significantly intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
asleep, unconscious or passed out
unable to understand what they are consenting to due to an intellectual, psychological or decision-making incapacity
Effects of sexual assault
The aftermath of sexual assault can be extremely painful for sexual assault survivors. It is important to be aware that each person reacts uniquely to sexual trauma, and there is no right or wrong way to feel or cope after the experience. This said, some of the common reactions following a sexual assault include:
Intense emotions such as fear, anger, sadness coupled with shock, numbness and disconnection
Anxiety, hypervigilance and/or lowering of mood
Post-traumatic symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and/or nightmares
Diminished self-esteem with frequent feelings of shame, humiliation, guilt and powerlessness
Avoidance behaviours or increased social isolation and withdrawal
Physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, nausea, loss of appetite and lethargy
Negative body image/self-concept
Increased use of alcohol or drugs to numb or cope with distressing traumatic memories and emotions
Loss of desire for sexual intimacy OR increased risky sexual behaviours
Absence from work or studies due post-traumatic symptoms or inability to concentrate and focus
Self-harming behaviours in an attempt to cope with or numb intense emotions
Is it possible to recover from a sexual assault?
With professional support post-traumatic reactions and methods of coping will improve over time. If you
are a survivor of sexual assault it is important to remember that you were not responsible for the assault and obtaining early intervention from a specialist sexual assault counsellor will assist to address your traumatic experience, manage your symptoms and reduce its ongoing impact. With over 7 years’ experience working within a specialist sexual assault crisis service with survivors of recent and historic sexual assault and abuse, Danni at Sexual Trauma Counselling Perth can assist you in your recovery and support you to live a full and meaningful life.
Medicare rebates can be available with a mental health care treatment plan referral from your GP or Psychiatrist.
Book a confidential appointment with Danni at Sexual Trauma Counselling Perth today.