Sexual assault is when someone is made to engage in sexual behaviour against their will. It includes rape, attempted rape and any other kind of forced sex act.
Women are much more likely than men to be sexually assaulted, but it also happens to men. Often, the person who commits the assault is someone you know.
Sexual assault is never your fault. Recovering from a sexual assault can take time, but there is help for you, even if it happened a long time ago.
A note on child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse occurs when a child under 16 years old is used by an adult or older child in a sexual way. Children don’t usually report the abuse directly, especially as it tends to be carried out by someone they trust.
Look out for these things:
If you suspect a child is being abused, contact Child Youth and Family on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) where you can speak to a trained social worker.
After an assault
Remember, if you have been sexually assaulted, it’s not your fault. The responsibility for sexual assault lies with the person who did it. It doesn’t matter whether you had been drinking, were out late at night, what kind of clothes you were wearing or if you had agreed to go out on a date with them.
It’s normal to feel upset, scared, angry, numb or shut down, and you might also feel disbelief, humiliation, disgust, guilt, regret, self-blame and want to keep it a secret.
It helps to talk about what has happened with a counsellor or psychotherapist. You can do this straight away or many years later.
It’s your choice whether or not to report your sexual assault to the police. If you decide to, you can take someone with you as a support person.
Getting help from your doctor
It’s a good idea to see your doctor so they can treat any injuries, protect you against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and collect medical evidence in case you decide to report the assault to the police.
If you are over 16 years old, you can see a doctor without having to report your assault – many are not reported and it’s up to you whether you do or not.
Your doctor will ask questions and do a physical examination and may take swabs. You can say no to any part of the examination. They may prescribe medication to stop an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection.
You may need to go to a follow-up appointment with your doctor to see if the medications have worked and to talk about what support you need.
Looking after yourself
Take good care of yourself while you are recovering by:
- getting plenty of sleep
- eating nourishing food
- doing gentle exercise
- spending time with close friends
- doing relaxing activities, such as baths, walks, good books and soothing music
- avoiding alcohol and drugs.
Where can I get support?
Contact one of these specialised organisations for support:
ACC sensitive claims One of the funding options for counselling is through ACC, you can find out more about this here or talk to our team who can support you through this process.
NZ Police Advice about what you can do after an assault
Rape Crisis non-profit, community agency that supports survivors of sexual violence progress towards healing. National Call Line 0800 88 33 00
Rape Prevention Education offer free support and counselling to survivors of rape and sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse Help Foundation also provides survivor support in Wellington and Auckland, as a larger agency they work with people of all ages and genders and have a 24hr crisis support line. Auckland: 09 623 1700 Wellington: 04 801 6655
Sexual Abuse Prevention Network provides education and advice with the goal of ending sexual abuse.
The Harbour This is an online information hub for survivors, for those who have harmed and for family and friends.
Victims' information A website developed by the Ministry of Justice to help support victim-survivors of sexual violence through the court process and to help them make informed choices about the actions they take after they've experienced sexual violence.
Support services for sexual abuse in Auckland HELP Auckland
Sexual assault statistics Rape prevention education
Legal definitions around sexual abuse Rape Prevention Education
Advice for victims NZ Police advice
Your options - sexual assault service for adults and adolescents Saats Link, NZ, 2017
Getting specialist medical help after sexual assault Saats Link, NZ, 2018
- Fergusson DM, McLeod GFH, Horwood LJ. Childhood sexual abuse and adult developmental outcomes: Findings from a 30-year longitudinal study in New Zealand. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2013 Sept; 37(4): 664–674 [Abstract]
- Post-traumatic stress disorder management National Institute for Health Care and Excellence.