Written by – Daphne White, Executive Manager Operations for Desert Blue Connect
In Australia, 1 in 6 women have experienced sexual assault, since the age of 15 (AIHW, 2018). During 18/19, 700 women in Western Australia reported being a victim of a recent sexual assault to the WA Police Force, making the female victimisation rate in WA it’s highest in recent years (Government of Western Australia). There is anecdotal evidence that many women do not report sexual assault to the WA Police Force, so the true number of female victims is not known. Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem and is considered a gendered issue due to the majority of sexual assault being perpetrated by men against women.
Women respond in different ways following a sexual assault and they often don’t know what to do or who to contact. This is where specialist sexual assault services play an important part in the healing journey for these women and offer them the right to choose their own path to recovery. These specialist services provide advocacy and support related to the immediate crisis situation as well as long term needs of women, and if required can provide trauma informed counselling.
How can an advocate help in an immediate crisis?
A sexual assault advocate is that first point of contact when you need support. They offer a positive response that is trauma informed and helps the woman feel safe. Their support is based on the needs, perspectives and culture of the client, and includes:-
- Provision of information to the client, on how the sexual violence affects individuals, coping strategies, links to other services that can assist, emergency help and where to get more information
- Provision of crisis assessment and response
- Work with the client to explore and weigh up their options
- Offer assistance to contact a support person of their choice to be with them through any medical, police legal or forensic procedures or attend themselves at client’s request and consent
- Provision of support through the process of healing by providing client-centred counselling
- Communicate respect for and acceptance of people and their feelings
There are 5 regional Western Australia specialised sexual assault support services located in Mandurah, Bunbury, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Port Hedland. These services are listed below and a phone service is offered to the whole region they service.
Waratah Support Centre 24 Hour Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 017 303
Desert Blue Connect 24 Hour Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 016 789
Sexual Assault Counselling Support Services 24 Hour Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 688 922
Allambee Counselling 24 Hour Emergency Line with SARC (Perth) 1800 199 888
Acacia Support Service Crisis call phone 0472 834 604
Trauma informed counselling is also offered by these regional services to women who have experienced sexual assault. Women experience psychological trauma differently, depending on the severity, extent and duration of the abuse, along with what social support is available at the time and the response they received. The counsellors who work in these sectors are experienced professionals with multiple ‘expertise’ in sexual assault and they understand complex trauma.
How can a professional sexual assault counsellor help women?
□ Develop a therapeutic plan and set client counselling goals
□ Use a combination of interventions and therapy to meet the client’s needs
□ Assist with their healing so they can rebuild their lives
□ Work in a trauma informed way that ensures safety and stability
□ Counselling is flexible and tailored to meet the client’s needs
□ Provide short, medium or long term counselling
If women do not have access to the above services, 1800 RESPECT offers a confidential information, counselling and support service which is open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault and family violence. Phone 1800 737 732.
Government of Western Australia: Department of Communities, (2019). 2019 Women’s Report Card. Retrieved from https://www.communities.wa.gov.au/media/2015/womens-report-card-2019.pdf
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (2018). Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/d1a8d479-a39a-48c1-bbe2-4b27c7a321e0/aihw-fdv-02.pdf.aspx?inline=true