rape; sex; sexual; abuse; violence; intercourse;
Rape is a crime of violence that can happen to anyone - women, men and children. There are many myths and misunderstandings about rape. These can make it hard for the victim to talk about what happened or report it to the police. Some of these myths blame victims, claiming that the attacks probably happened because of the way they were dressed, that they had had too much to drink or because they did not fight back. Other myths make excuses for offenders, such as it being due to hormonal or emotional disturbance.
None of these are true. Rape is a crime of violence that can have devastating effects on the victim.
In this topic sometimes we use the word 'she' for the victim and 'he' for the abuser, but it is important to remember that men and boys can also be raped and women can be the people who do the abusing.
Rape is sexual intercourse knowing that the other person does not consent to sexual intercourse with him/her, and being 'indifferent' to consent. Indifference to consent is a legal term that means that the person committing the rape doesn’t care if the victim is a child, or is incapable of resisting because of alcohol or drugs or is too scared to object to this unwanted violation of her or his body.
- Sexual intercourse in the definition of rape means penetration of the vagina anus or mouth by any part of another person or any object. It also includes mouth to genitals contact.
The topic Rape on our Young adult site has a lot of information about what rape is, the reasons it occurs and what can be done through the Law. This topic is about helping a friend, you, or someone close to you, who has experienced sexual violence. There is also a topic on this site called Surviving sexual abuse.
victim of rape
Rape is sexual abuse, often violent sexual abuse. It leaves people feeling very distressed, angry, scared, violated. When someone is abused like this their family and their friends can also feel very angry, distressed and very confused.
Victims of rape often are afraid that they will be seen as somehow responsible for the rape and in the past women and men were treated badly by society in general, the Police, the Courts, so that they were reluctant to report the crime. Nowadays the whole matter is treated with much more sensitivity and counselling, and other services are readily available, however the victim may still feel overwhelmingly ashamed.
If someone is abused like this they may also feel they can't tell their friends because they fear their friends will also make negative judgements about them. They may not want to tell their family because they feel ashamed even though it was not their fault. Maybe they are also scared at what their family might do when they are so angry.
Unfortunately there are still many 'myths' around in the community about how and why rape occurs, and survivors of rape might even believe some of them themselves.
A survivor may think:
- "I shouldn't have been there"
- "I shouldn't have worn such a sexy outfit"
- "Did I lead him on?"
- "I should have put up more of a fight"
- "I should never have trusted him in the first place"
- "I shouldn't have had so much to drink."
- "No-one will believe me".
It is important to remember that people who have experienced rape are never to blame for that other person's action. Regardless of whether someone feels she may have led a man on, if at any point she says or shows that she does not wish to have sex and he doesn’t respect that wish, it is rape.
'NO' means 'NO'.
She is also not to blame if she did not scream or put up a fight, because fear can stop someone from doing this. Her behaviour did not cause the rape; it was the decision of the person who raped her. She was not given a choice.
One big myth is that people are usually raped by strangers. Most people who are raped are raped by someone they know, and often have trusted such as their partner, a 'friend' or someone in their family.
Another big myth is that boys and men who are raped must be homosexual. This is just not true.
It is important to remember that rape is not motivated by sex, but has other motives such as wanting to dominate and control.
For more information about some myths, have a look at this information from the Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service.
she or he may feel
Being raped can have effects which may continue for years. It is important to seek help as soon as possible.
She or he may feel:
- anxious or depressed.
- embarrassed or humiliated - feeling like everyone knows and is talking about her or him
- self-blame and guilt - thinking about all the 'What ifs'' that could have changed the situation
- a state of numbness and shock – shutting out the whole trauma and its effects.
- anger - at the rapist, at men, sometimes (wrongly) at herself or himself
- helpless - like she or he has no control over what happens to her or him and that she or he does not matter
- concern about 'losing her or his mind' - not being able to think straight
- afraid - not being able to trust people, no longer feeling safe
- afraid of telling someone because she or he thinks she or he will be blamed
- afraid of it happening again.
The reactions people experience after being raped often make them feel they are going crazy and that they can never trust people again, but they are normal and to be expected. It is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to feel. Remember that she or he is not to blame. Nobody asks or deserves to be raped and there is no excuse for violence of any kind
It is vital she or he takes care of themself and they will need to have support to help them to cope.
The topic Surviving sexual abuse has more information about long term effects.
parents and family may feel
The people closest to the victim may have some very strong feelings too.
It is quite normal for them to feel upset, angry, powerless, guilty and confused. They can feel that they have let her down in some way by being unable to protect her.
- They may become overprotective and not want to let her out of their sight.
- They may even feel that in someway it was her fault. But it wasn't, she didn't choose to be violated.
- They may want to pretend it never happened.
Many family members also feel that they want revenge against the perpetrator, but taking matters into their own hands could make the situation a whole lot worse.
Most of them want to help and support but are not sure what to do. The parenting topic on Rape might help them.
a victim can find help
- Call a crisis service as soon as possible, they have doctors and trained counsellors who will help them talk to the Police, get medical help and support them through the trauma. If they have made or is considering filing a police report, they can ask the doctor to collect physical evidence of the assault.
- They need to talk to someone she trusts. They need to feel supported. Speaking with someone can help them feel less alone, and to work out what they want to do.
- Talking with friends might seem like a good idea, but they might find the whole thing so scary, or they might be so angry that the victim feels she or he should protect them.
If your friend has been raped
- They can talk to a telephone counsellor. (In Australia you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800).
- It is important for them to find a health worker that they can trust.
They may be feeling now that they will never be the same again, but in time, most people do recover.
If you are under 18, health and medical workers are legally required to report any sexual or physical violence to child protection services such as Families SA in South Australia.
Our Young Adult site has more information on this, plus there are other resources listed at the end of this topic.
get medical help?
- It is a good idea to get medical care. People can get this at the crisis centre, a special rape and assault centre if there is one nearby, a local hospital or their own doctor; wherever feels most comfortable.
- Some people who are raped are physically injured and may need treatment for this.
- One of the most devastating facts about rape is that women often get pregnant as a result of the rape. Some very difficult decisions might have to be made. Emergency contraception (the 'morning after' pill) can stop a woman getting pregnant if taken soon after the rape (it is best if it is taken within 3 days after the abuse, but it usually works if taken within 5 days after the rape).
- Both men and women are also at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection and medical help can often prevent this.
- A doctor may also be a very good person to talk about the emotional effects of rape, not just straight after the rape, but also for the next months, or even years.
victims can do for themselves
- If at all possible it is best to go on doing all the things they normally do – going to school or work, going out with friends, getting exercise, even trying very hard to do things out in the community by themselves. They need to build up their confidence, and they need to relearn that they can trust other people.
- Some people find that it is helpful to write about their experience and feelings in a journal.
- They need to remind themselves that it is not their fault.
Getting counselling may be helpful to deal with feelings and emotions now and into the future.
If someone has been the victim of sexual assault then remember that they can still report it to the police even 10 years afterwards but it is helpful for future legal actions if there has been a detailed medical examination within 72 hours of the assault. Have a look at the topic Surviving sexual abuse for more information about what can be done a long time after being raped.
People do not have to go through all this alone: there are many support services available.
Rape is a horrible experience but with the right help and support it is possible to accept that it happened and move on with life.
- Yarrow Place Rape and the Sexual Assault Service (for people aged 16 years or more at the time of the assault)
Toll-free or for country callers - Tel: 1800 817 421).
After hours for recent sexual assault - Tel: 8226 8787.
- If someone is under 16 they can receive counselling and/or medical support from the Child Protection Units:
- Women and Children's Hospital, call 8161 7346 or 8161 7000 after hours
- Flinders Medical Centre call 8204 5485 or 8204 5511 after hours
- Medical care is also available at hospital emergency departments, a local doctor, and SHine SA or youth health services.
- Police: there are police staff who are specially trained to assist victims of rape, incest, child sexual abuse, and other serious sexual assaults.
- Female police officers are available and provide a range of support services, even if police action is not taken, including:
- advice about the criminal justice system - what actually happens in court, means of giving evidence, arranging a support person or 'court companion'
- making referrals to counselling services
- arranging medical examinations
- collecting clothing and exhibits as evidence
- preparing victims' statements.
- In South Australian law, evidence of physical resistance is not necessary to demonstrate that someone did not consent. A case may not be able to be prosecuted if the sexual offence occurred before 1982.
- The Second Story Youth Health Service (TSS)
- Youth Health line 1300 13 17 19 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
- SHine SA (Sexual Health information networking and education)
- Sidestreet counselling service
- Uniting Care Wesley - young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and who have experienced sexual or physical abuse - Tel: 8202 5871.
- Victims Support Service - Tel: 8231 5626.
- Crisis Care (after hours and weekends) - Tel: 131 611.
- Lifeline - Tel: 13 11 14.
- Kids Helpline - Tel: 1800 55 1800
- Your own doctor
- A community Health Centre.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).