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The experience and impact of sexual assault is different for everyone.

A person may feel shocked about what's happened. They may question over and over how the assault could've been avoided. They may find it hard to believe that someone they know or love could have done such a thing.

They may blame themselves or think they did something that gave the wrong message. They may also feel frightened, ashamed and powerless. Sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, crying unexpectedly or being really angry is also common.

Whatever the reaction, it's a normal response to an extreme emotional and physical violation.

No one ever asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted. It's not the person's fault that they were sexually assaulted. The responsibility for the violence is always with the perpetrator.

When someone has been sexually assaulted, it's important for them to be believed and to know they're not alone.    

No one has the right to make someone do sexual things they don't want to do, even if they're married to them or in a relationship with them. Forced sex is sexual assault. A person has to consent (give permission). Being married or being in a relationship does not mean ongoing consent. Sexual assault is an act of violence. And it's a serious crime.

Sexual assault is most commonly committed by men against women. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people also experience sexual assault, and men can also be victims of sexual offences.

Sexual assault and coercion

Other words to describe sexual assault include sexual violence, sexual abuse and rape. Sexual violence can involve strangers or people known, including boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands, wives, and exes.

Sexual violence can include many things such as:

  • touching any part of the body in a sexual way that is unwanted or without consent
  • any form of unwanted sexual degradation, such as sexual activity without consent
  • causing pain during sex
  • assaulting genitals
  • making someone perform sexual acts unwillingly including taking or distributing explicit photos without consent
  • criticising or using sexually degrading insults

Sexual coercion is when a person pressures or tricks someone into doing sexual things they don't want to do, and can include:

  • saying they'll leave or have sex with someone else if the person won't have sex with them
  • saying the person owes them sex or sexual acts
  • telling the person it's their duty to have sex with them
  • making someone feel scared if they refuse sex

Read about the other forms of sexual violence and sexual coercion on the 1800RESPECT website.

Read about consent and the definitions and different types of sexual assault on the Women's Legal Service web page, What is sexual assault?

The Line website has information created especially for young people.
If you need to talk to someone, call the Youthline.
(02) 9951 5522

What you can do

If you’ve been sexually assaulted you have a number of options:

  1. You can choose not to do anything.
  2. You can get medical help and also advice on what support you need.
  3. You can choose to report the assault to police and get a forensic specimen inspection.

It's never too late to report a sexual assault. Some people choose to report immediately after the assault happens, others may report days, months and even years later. This is all OK, however, a forensic examination is usually required within 5 days of the assault as after that there may not be evidence that can be collected.

Watch: Your rights and options after a recent sexual assault

(Video from 1800RESPECT)

1. Don't do anything

You can choose not to do anything, and that's OK. It's your right. It's most likely you're in extreme shock as well as feeling a range of emotions. You may also experience a variety of symptoms such as sleeplessness, flashbacks, moodiness, negativity, fear, self-doubt, anger and sadness. Even if you don't do anything, call the NSW Rape Crisis Centre and talk to a trained counsellor who can provide you with support. They're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

NSW Rape Crisis line
1800 424 017

2. Get medical help

To get medical help, go to the hospital, see a doctor, or visit a Women's Health Centre or Sexual Assault Services. Getting medical help doesn't mean you'll have to go to court or make a report to the Police. If you're aged 17 and over, reporting to the Police is your choice.

Getting medical help means:

  • you can get health check for sexually transmitted disease, a pregnancy test, the morning after pill, and treatment for any injuries
  • you can get a referral to a support service, and you can choose to talk to a counsellor straight away or later when the time is right for you

Your nearest hospital

To find the nearest hospital use:

  • Ask Izzy — it's mobile-friendly
  • My Hospitals — the site will help find private and public hospitals

Women's Health Centres

Women's Health Centres in NSW are non-government, community based health services that provide services to women in a feminist context. Each centre differs in its services, but can include medical services by female doctors, counselling, and culturally specific services. The services can be free or heavily discounted, but booking is usually required. Find the nearest Women's Health Centre.

Sexual Assault Services

NSW Health Sexual Assault Services are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are located in community health centres or hospitals across NSW. Services are free and confidential and include counselling, medical treatment, forensic examinations, and court support for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. Find the nearest Sexual Assault Services.

The NSW Rape Crisis Centre website also lists Women's Health Centres, Police and NSW Health Sexual Assault Services by region.

You don't need to have reported the sexual assault to the Police to receive help from a Sexual Assault Service if you are aged 17 or older. The services are available for children, adolescents and adults who've been sexually abused as well as their non-offending parents, caregivers, partners and families.

Sexual Assault Services :

  • offer a counsellor to talk to
  • have doctors
  • carry out a medical examination, including tests for sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy tests
  • carry out a forensic examination, if the sexual assault was very recent, usually within the last 5 days
  • offer help in getting needed medical care, including information on the morning after pill, abortion and follow up medical tests
  • offer help with talking to police
  • give referrals for further support and counselling
  • give referrals for legal advice
  • keep a record of what happened

What is a forensic examination?

A forensic examination is different from a medical check-up. Doctors and nurses use a Sexual Assault Investigation Kit (SAIK) to collect ‘forensic’ evidence after a sexual assault including swabs of various body parts, the results of blood and urine pathology tests and the notes taken by the examining doctor.

The doctor will write down what happened and describe any injuries and any distress shown. The doctor may test for DNA from sperm or saliva using cotton buds that are wiped in the mouth, vagina, anus or skin, if relevant. They might take photos of any injuries. The doctor might also need a blood sample and take any clothes that were worn at the time.

You can request a female doctor but if this is not possible, which may be the case in rural or regional areas, the doctor will have a female worker present during the examination. You can ask for a female support person, such as a friend, to be there if no female worker is available.

There is a form to sign in the SAIK that allows the information to be released to the Police. It's up to you whether or not you sign it. If a person is 16-years-old or younger, sexual assault counsellors have a duty to report to Family and Community Services, which may result in a police investigation.

3. Report it to police

It's your choice whether you want to report the sexual assault to Police. It can be especially hard to report a boyfriend, husband, partner or ex. You can choose to have a support person with you and take breaks while giving your statement. Your recovery is the main priority.

For those under 16-years-old and have been sexually assaulted, reports can be made to the Child Protection Helpline and to the local police station.​​​​

Child Protection Helpline
132 111 

How to report it to police

Go to your local police station directly or go to a NSW Health Sexual Assault Service, where the counsellor can contact Police on your behalf. Police can also offer access to a NSW Health Sexual Assault counsellor.

You can contact the Crime Manager at your local police station ahead of time so that you can be taken straight to the interview room rather than have to explain to the front desk why you are there.

There are police officers who are specially trained to investigate sexual assault. They will ask for a statement. This is done in a private area of the police station. They will ask for details of what happened. Police understand this process is not easy and that it can be embarrassing. Just do the best you can.

You can have a support person with you while making a statement, but the support person can't join in on the interview with police. A request to speak to a female or male officer will be met wherever possible.

If you went to a Sexual Assault Service first, where a forensic examination was carried out and a consent form signed, Police will analyse the samples and the details of the evidence, which could be used in future legal processes. If you went directly to Police and agreed to speak to a counsellor, a forensic medical examination to gather evidence of the sexual assault will be arranged — but only if you agree.

If there is enough evidence, Police will investigate the sexual assault and the Director of Public Prosecutions will prosecute the offender. This is at no cost to the victim of the crime. However, no action will be taken to investigate without permission.

Even if you don't want further action to be taken, reporting the sexual assault helps the police to record the crime, which may help with future investigations.

Apprehended Violence Order

Police may also make an application on your behalf for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) to protect you from future threats or violence. An AVO is a court order that bans the perpetrator from assaulting, harassing, threatening, stalking or intimidating you. If they break the AVO, they may be charged with a criminal offence. Read more information about AVOs.

Sexual Assault Report Option (SARO)

There is also the option of completing the SARO questionniare. This option is not a formal report to the police, but will be used to gather information on sexual offences and offending. More information about SARO is available on the NSW Police website.

Your rights as a victim of crime

Sexual assault is a crime. If you are seeking medical attention, reporting the crime to police or speaking to a counsellor, you have a right to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect. The Charter of Victim's Rights lists all your rights.

Women's Legal Service NSW also has information on your rights after a sexual assault, as well as what happens if you report the crime to police and have to go to court.

What you can do if someone you know was sexually assaulted

Information about how to support someone if they have been sexually assaulted:

Who you can contact

Police

Emergency
000

Non-Emergency
13 14 44 

Find your local NSW Police station

Crisis phone lines

NSW Rape Crisis Line
1800 424 017

Domestic Violence Line
1800 65 64 63

Other contacts

There are also services and supports available for Aboriginal people, for anyone identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex (LGBTQI), and for recent migrants.

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