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Was I assaulted?

Learn more about sexual assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. This includes sexual contact made by opportunity (e.g. you were intoxicated and could not say no), coercion, intimidation, threats or the use of force. It is important to remember that sexual assault takes many forms, some of which do not involve penetration. Grabbing someone's breasts, genitals or buttocks is sexual assault, so is someone making you touch them for a sexual purpose. You have been sexually assaulted if someone forces you to kiss or fondle them, to have anal, oral, or vaginal intercourse or to participate in any other type of sexual activity without your consent.

Kinds of assault

Child sexual abuse is when another person sexualises a child, or uses a child for their sexual gratification. For more information on child sexual abuse click here.

Under New Zealand law (see Crimes Act 1961), incest refers to parents, grandparents and siblings, including half siblings. Separate sections in the Crimes Act cover sexual abuse by other relatives, non-blood relatives and/or guardians.

The sexual abuse of boys and men is far more common than generally believed. Research indicates that 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16 and around 1 in 10 men will experience some form of unwanted and distressing sexual abuse. For more information click here.

Sexual abuse by an intimate partner or ex-partner is very common. Any individual in a relationship, whether opposite or same sex, has the right to say no to their partner, husband or wife.

Sexual assault of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals. LGBTIQ people are just as likely, and sometimes more likely to experience some form of sexual abuse. LGBTIQ survivors have the same rights as heterosexual survivors to make a police report and/or apply for a protection order. Sentencing guidelines recognise crimes motivated by what the offender thinks of the survivor's sexual orientation, and offenders motivated by homophobia can receive longer services.

Stranger rape is when someone is raped, abused or violated by a person or more than one person they do not know.

Acquaintance rape is sexual violation, abuse or rape by someone known to the survivor, but is not a partner or whanau member. The offender may be a friend, neighbour, employer, teacher, or someone vaguely known to them.

People with intellectual, mental or physical disabilities are more likely to be targeted for sexual violence. The Crimes Act identifies disability as important to the question of consent; consent is not given if the sexual activity took place while the victim was affected by an intellectual, mental or physical condition or impairment that meant they were unable to consent or refuse to consent to the activity.

Sexual violence against sex workers. Even though a client has paid for some sexual activity, this does not mean that a worker has given consent for all activities. A sex worker may give consent to one act but not another and may withdraw consent at any time.

Date rape is sexual abuse or rape that happens while people are on a date and may or may not be mediated by alcohol or other drugs.

Alcohol, drugs and sexual violence. Sexual assault may involve alcohol or drugs, whether by choice of the survivor or because they are administered drugs or alcohol against their will, or without their knowledge. By law, consent to sexual activity is not given if you are so affected by alcohol or drugs that you cannot consent or are unable to consent to sexual activity.

Sexual harassment is prohibited under the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Employment Relations Act 2000. Broadly, these Acts prohibit two types of sexual harassment:

  • requesting sexual activity with an implicit or overt promise of special treatment or a threat of harmful treatment

  • the use of language, visual material or physical behaviour of a sexual nature, which is unwelcome or offensive, and is either repeated or significant enough to have a detrimental effect

 

Effects of sexual assault

Physical effects

In the short term, physical effects may include pain and bodily injuries especially if the abuse involved physical force. Specific physical effects may include: bruising, broken bones, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, nausea, vomiting, muscle tension, fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches.

In the long term, some of these effects may persist and other effects may include; disturbed sleep patterns, nightmares, insomnia, loss of appetite, stomach pains and gastrointestinal or gynaecological issues.

Emotional and Psychological effects

Some short term emotional reactions may include
• Self-blame
• Shame, guilt, or embarrassment
• Anxiety, stress, or fear
• Shock
• Impaired memory, confusion, or disorientation
• Anger, hostility, or aggression
• Disturbed sleep, insomnia, or nightmares
• Flashbacks or panic attacks

Some longer term effects may include
• Sexualized behaviours
• Loss of sex drive
• Interpersonal problems
• Denial
• Irritability
• Erratic mood swings
• Depression or despair
• Social withdrawal
• Decreased energy and motivation
• Disturbed sleep, insomnia, or nightmares
• Flashbacks or panic attacks
• Guilt/self-blame
• Numbing/apathy (detachment, loss of caring)
• Restricted affect (reduced ability to express emotions)
• Difficulty concentrating
• Diminished interest in activities
• Loss of self-esteem
• Loss of security
• Loss of appetite, eating problems/disorders, or gastrointestinal disturbance
• Substance use and abuse (alcohol and other drugs) and other compulsive behaviours
• Feeling powerless
• Feeling uncomfortable being alone
• Self-injury, self-mutilation (cutting, burning or otherwise hurting oneself), or substance abuse
• Suicidal thought or ideation
• Extreme dependency
• Body memories
• Feelings of alienation and isolation
• Hyper-vigilance (always being "on guard")
• Exaggerated startle response (jumpiness)
• Hyper-arousal (exaggerated feelings or responses to stimuli)
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Research shows if you seek specialist help as soon as you can, it is easier to deal with harmful impacts of sexual violence.
Some agencies have specialist counsellors on-site and others can refer you to specialist counsellors in your local community. Payment for counselling varies – some agencies offer free counselling, others ask you to make a contribution or to seek ACC or WINZ funding to contribute to costs. If you have reported to the Police, you may be entitled to financial assistance to replace anything you might have lost during the assault. A specialist agency can assist you with applying for this from Victim Support.