Have you recently been sexually assaulted?
If you are a victim of recent sexual assault, you have the right to attend a Crisis Care Unit at Sunshine Hospital.
However if you attend a different hospital in the western suburbs of Melbourne, a WestCASA Counsellor/Advocate will travel to meet you at that hospital.
What you can do now:
1. Know there are people who can help you.
Emergency and counselling numbers:
2. You might have physical evidence on your body.
The offender may have left behind evidence such as fibres, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing. If this is the case and you would like to report the assault, do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body.
Do not change clothes if possible, so hospital staff can collect evidence. Do not touch or change anything at the scene of the assault.
3. If you report to the police…
The police may take you to a crisis care unit at a local hospital emergency department, where you will be supported by a local CASA counsellor.
The police, with your permission, may call a forensic medical examiner to collect evidence from you. This may include taking clothing, and samples of skin, saliva and semen that may have been left behind by the offender.
4. If you don’t report to the police…
It is still important that you receive some medical attention. This could be provided through your local general practitioner or hospital emergency.
You may need to be examined, treated for any injuries, and screened for possible sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy.
You can report at any time in the future.
5. Remember, you have been through a traumatic event
It is understandable that your usual coping mechanisms may have been affected. There are many normal and common reactions to sexual assault that may feel strange and uncomfortable.
Your local CASA can provide counselling and support you in managing these impacts.
WestCASA Crisis Care Service
WestCASA provides a Crisis Care Service specifically for people 18 years of age and over who have been sexually assaulted in the last 2 weeks.
People younger than 18 will be referred to the Gatehouse Centre based at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
In the Crisis Care Unit you will be supported by a Counsellor/Advocate.
They will provide:
- Information about the purpose of the forensic medical examination and support for you to decide whether to have the examination or not.
- Information about your rights with the police and the legal process and support for you to decide whether to report the sexual assault or not.
- Information about how recent sexual assault trauma might impact on your body, feelings and thoughts.
- Information about the counselling services offered at WestCASA. If you are living in different region you can receive information about where you can get future counselling or WestCASA can facilitate the referral to the CASA closer to your home.
Answers to some common questions
A Forensic Medical examination is offered to people who have been recently sexually assaulted (within the last 72 hours) and the person who has been assaulted wants to take legal action against the alleged perpetrator.
The Forensic Medical Examination will be conducted by a Forensic Medical Officer (FMO) who has special training for gathering evidence of the crime such as i.e. semen, skin and body fluids.
The FMO will explain what is involved in the examination.
– You have right to have a support person or nurse in the room while the forensic examination is conducted.
– You have the right to change your mind about having a forensic examination at any time before or during the examination.
The WestCASA Counsellor/Advocate can support you during this process and will advocate on your behalf with the FMO and other medical people who work in the hospital.
If you decide to take legal action, it usually means that you need to make a statement to the police and need to have a Forensic Medical Examination (see above) by a Forensic Medical Officer who will be looking for evidence i.e. semen, skin, body fluids to support the legal case.
According to the nature of the crime, your clothes that you were wearing at the time may be kept as evidence. You will be provided with other clothes by the WestCASA Counsellor/Advocate.
At the completion of the legal action your clothes will be returned to you, however this may take up to a couple of years. Making a police statement will allow the police to assess if there is enough evidence to investigate the crime you have reported.
It is normal to have reactions to a traumatic event. Human beings process their information on 3 different levels; Cognitive (thinking), emotional (feeling) and sensory (body/physical). Therefore, it’s likely that you will have thoughts, feelings and physical reactions to the recent sexual assault.
The majority of people say that they froze with fear during their sexual assault experience. Even though this freeze/immobility response is a survival mechanism, it creates a lot of guilt among the sexual assault victim/survivors.
People may have other symptoms such as feeling shaky or jelly-like in their body, feeling anxious and hyper-alert. Some experience flashbacks, sleeping problems or nightmares.
Even though some trauma reactions are common to most victim/survivors, every individual response is different. The majority of victim/survivors say that their trauma symptoms change and subside over time.
Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and experiencing.
Trauma creates changes in our body, mind and emotions. They are a natural response to the trauma. Seek help to understand these changes and ways to manage them.
Contact WestCASA or a CASA in your region.
Many people think that they need to talk about their sexual assault in detail to recover. This is a myth and is not true. Counselling often means working on managing the trauma symptoms and regaining a sense of control.
Talk to trusted people and share your feelings.
Connecting to others may help you feel supported.
Give yourself permission to have ‘me time’ to recover; rather than ‘soldiering on’.
Care for your body.
If you choose not to report the sexual assault to police, your GP or CASA services, you can talk to the triage nurse from Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (03 9341 6200, 580 Swanston Street, Carlton)
You can be checked out for any internal injuries, STD’s, HIV or other diseases. Melbourne Sexual Health Centre provides a sensitive, non-judgemental and confidential service to individuals.