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What can I do if it's happened to me?

If you've been the victim of date rape there's no 'right' or 'wrong' thing to do or feel. But here are some suggestions you might find helpful.

Understanding your feelings

If you've been raped, nobody except you knows how you feel. There's no 'correct' response to rape. However, you may find it helps to know how other people have reacted to rape. Some reactions are:

It’s perfectly understandable if you’re feeling mixed up and don’t know what to do. Just remember that there are things you can do to help you through, like talking to someone (a counsellor, or family and friends) or taking action (seeing a doctor, the police or lawyer).

This information is based, with kind permission, on the factsheet 'Does anyone know how I feel?', one of a series of excellent factsheets produced by the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.

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Talking to a counsellor

If you've been raped, it can be a great help to talk to someone, particularly an experienced professional counsellor. A counsellor who specialises in sexual assault will listen to you and give you support, ideas and information on what you can do.

You might choose to speak to them on the phone or make an appointment to see them in person. They will treat what you say as confidential (though special rules apply if you're sixteen or younger).

These counsellors usually work for sexual assault services, which help women and men who have experienced rape, whether recently or some time ago. A counsellor can:

How to contact a counsellor

Most sexual assault services are based in local Community Health Centres. See our list of phone numbers for free sexual assault services in NSW. You can also contact your local service by looking under 'Community Health Centres' in the White Pages phone book.

On weekends or at night, sexual assault crisis services are usually provided by the nearest hospital.

Some sexual assault services list a 24-hour number, to be used outside of business hours (usually 9 to 5). For the NSW Sexual Assault Service call 9819 6565 in the Sydney area or 1800 424 017 (freecall) outside Sydney.

If you're sixteen or younger

Sexual assault services and crisis lines like Kids Help Line and Lifeline are private and confidential.

However, there are some cases when these services can’t keep your information confidential. In New South Wales , there are special laws for young people under 16 years who have been assaulted.

If you give your name and you are under 16, sexual assault services and crisis lines are required to tell the Department of Community Services of your assault.

If you’re under 14 years old, your parents or caregiver needs to give consent for a medical check-up. Young people aged 14-15 years are able to give consent for a medical examination if they understand what the examination is for and the consequences it may have.

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Contact phone numbers for sexual assault services

Telling family and friends

If you’ve been raped the first thing you may want to do is tell a family member or a friend. They are the people closest to you and they will usually understand where you’re coming from. They may help by:

However, you may have mixed feelings about telling your friends and family. They may give you just the help you need, but sometimes what they may not be so helpful. They may:

The important thing to remember is there are no ‘rules’ about who to tell and when. You can choose who to tell and what to tell. And anyone you tell should react in a way that helps you, rather than worrying about their own feelings. You’re the one who’s been assaulted and you need to focus your energies on yourself.

This information is based, with kind permission, on the factsheet 'Telling family and friends', one of a series of excellent factsheets produced by the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.

Seeing a doctor

If you have been raped you may want to have a medical check-up by a doctor. The doctor can begin tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS and may also be able to give you medication to prevent a possible pregnancy.

If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can ask for a female doctor to do the check-up. It is also your right to have a support person there during any part of the examination.

You can organise a medical check-up through these services:

If you decide to report the assault to the police, a medical check-up may be needed to collect forensic evidence (which may later be used in court).

Sexually transmitted diseases

The risk of getting a disease as a result of sexual assault is fairly low. But it is important that you have the tests at regular intervals to check whether you’ve caught a disease. The tests are all free and confidential. For tests you can see:

The possibility of pregnancy

It’s important to visit a doctor in order to prevent a possible pregnancy. A doctor can give you the ‘morning after pill’ to prevent pregnancy after the sexual assault. The morning after pill can work up to 72 hours after the sexual assault but the earlier you take it the better.

(Taken from Women and Violence: What can you do if you experience sexual assault April 2000, Department for Women (now Office for Women) www.women.nsw.gov.au/Publications/Publications.htm)

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Understanding your legal rights (police, lawyer)

It can be a hard decision whether or not to report a sexual assault, but the most important thing is to do what’s best for you. Take the time to think about what you want to do.

To report or not report?

There are many reasons why women may or may not tell the police. Reporting a rape means you can:

Some reasons why women may not report may be because they:

If you do not feel safe from your attacker you can ask the police about an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO). This is a legal document which states that the attacker won’t be allowed to come near you.

How to make a report

If you decide to report the assault to the police, the first thing you will have to do is make a formal statement.

This means telling the police in detail what happened to you. Your statement is usually taken by a police officer who is specially trained to respond to people who have been sexually assaulted. You can ask to have a female officer take your statement if it makes you feel more comfortable.

If there is no policewoman at your local station, you can ask for one to be brought in from another station. Once you have made your statement the police then decide what charges, if any, should be laid.

Sexual Assault Services or the police can provide you with more detailed information about what happens when you make a formal complaint. You may also like to talk to them about seeing a lawyer.

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