What can I do if someone tells me they have been sexually assaulted?
If you find yourself in a situation where someone tells you directly or indirectly that they have experienced sexual assault of some description, it is important that the person feels safe and comfortable talking to you. Here is some advice about how to respond to that person. You could also call your local Rape Crisis Centre or the Rape Crisis Helpline (1800 77 88 88) for advice.
It is important to remember that you can’t make decisions for the person, only they can decide what action they wish to take. What you can do is:
• Tell the person you are glad they told you about what happened, and that you want to help
• Tell them you believe them
• Tell them that you can find out about support agencies for them and if they want, you can ring a support agency for them or will even go with them to the support agency for the first time, if they want
• Tell them that they do not have to be alone with this
• Tell them that they have time to think about what they want to do, and that you will continue to help them
• Give them time to think. If this is the first time they have told anyone, they might "pull back" a little and need to get used to the idea that someone else knows
• If it is a very recent assault, tell them that you will find out about medical and legal supports
• Tell them that the decision is really up to them, and that you will support their decision.
You can also get support from a Rape Crisis Centre if you are supporting someone who has been raped or abused. You may at times find it difficult to give your support, and you can ring your local Rape Crisis Centre to get help about this.
Research shows clearly that a good response to a disclosure makes an enormous difference to victims, including in their long term recovery and in their decision to take up support services.
There is more detailed practical advice on what people can do if they have been sexually assaulted on our "Help for those who have experienced sexual violence/assault" page.
If you suspect that an adult you know has experienced sexual assault, you could raise the topic of sexual abuse in their company. For example you could talk about something you saw in the paper or on TV, and you can say that if anyone ever told you, you would help them get help. This could be a way to let them know that you are comfortable talking about abuse, and that you would be supportive if they told you.