Family doctor


Personal And Social Issues



This article provides an overview and links to resources to help .

What is sexual assault?

Rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse all have one thing in common. One person has, or tries to have, some form of sex with another person who does not want it - a person who does not consent.

Sometimes, this person is not capable of consenting - for example, a child or an intellectually handicapped person or someone who is too drunk to know what is happening.

Sexual assault always involves the misuse of power.

Power doesn't just mean physical force or threats. In fact in most cases the person is not physically harmed but is hurt or overpowered in other ways.

Anyone can be the victim of sexual assault or rape. It happens to men, women and children, to the young and to the old. No one "asks" to be sexually assaulted and no one who is sexually assaulted is ever "to blame".

Is the attacker always a stranger?

No. In most cases, rape and sexual assault are committed by someone who is an acquaintance, a neighbour, boss, friend, husband or family member. When a child is sexually abused, the offender is often a male relative or family friend.

Those who have been sexually assaulted need help - no matter how long ago it happened.

Rape or sexual assault is a terrifying experience. Everybody reacts differently. Some may show their distress openly, while others may appear outwardly calm. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to react. Many different feelings accompany sexual assault. They include:

  • Humiliation, disgust, powerlessness
  • Numbness, disbelief, fear
  • Guilt, responsibility, blaming oneself
  • Isolation, unwillingness to tell others

Those feelings can make it difficult to ask for help. It is never too late. Sometimes well-meaning friends feel you "should be over it by now". Trained counsellors understand why this is not true.

Emotional care - counseling

Support and understanding may come from family and friends, but sometimes other people have trouble coping with what has happened and trained counselors may be easier to talk with. Counseling is available for all people who have been raped or sexually assaulted and to their family and friends.

Physical care

Whether there is injury or not, it is important to have a medical check.

What can the doctor offer?

Reassurance: Just knowing that physically you are okay, can give great relief and can be an important step towards recovery.

Injuries: Need to be assessed and treated.

Sexually transmitted diseases: These can be contracted and yet give no sign or symptoms. The doctor can give a full check for STDs and offer prevention with antibiotics if you seek help within a few days, or treatment if you seek it later.

Pregnancy: Again, the doctor can give treatment to prevent pregnancy within the first few days. If it's too late for this, the doctor can offer counseling and medical advice if you think you might be pregnant from an assault.

Evidence for court cases: If you are considering making a report to the police about the assault, the examination can include the collection of samples for evidence. This must be done as soon as possible after the assault as evidence is easily destroyed. Having this special examination does not commit you to prosecuting the assailant, but it does give you the choice if you decide to do so later.

Remember: No medical examination of any sort is ever done without your full consent.

Practical care

The police can investigate the attacker and, if necessary, offer protection from further risk.

The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has the legal authority to keep a child or teenager safe.

The Accident Compensation Corporation will meet the costs of counseling by an approved counselor. It can compensate you for personal injury, for damage to clothing, for time off work and for other consequences of a sexual assault.

Where to get help?

If you or someone close to you, has been the victim of rape or sexual assault, there is plenty of practical, professional help available.

Don't go it alone! HELP centres and Rape Crisis centres can provide help and support.

Seek medical help from your own doctor or a DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) doctor.

Your own GP may be able to help. Sometimes though, the victim of sexual assault is reluctant to seek the help of the family doctor.

All DSAC doctors are trained in the care of sexual assault victims, and are willing to help you. A DSAC coordinator will be able to refer you to a DSAC doctor. There are DSAC co-coordinators throughout New Zealand. Please see DSAC website link below.

If you have any problems contacting a co-ordinator or if you cannot find a HELP or Rape Crisis centre near you, please contact your local Citizen's Advice Bureau. It is listed in your telephone directory.

But don't listen to the myths about rape and sexual assault. Find out the facts for yourself. And do seek help. You deserve it.

Visit the Website of  DSAC(Doctors for Sexual abuse care) .There is detailed patient information and you can find local doctors throughout New Zealand under the Liaison Directory.

See also:

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