Talking to someone

I’ve been feeling so different since the sexual assault. Is this normal?

Everyone’s experience of sexual assault is different. However, many people have common feelings and reactions after they’ve been assaulted. This may include feeling:

  • Numb and shocked;
  • Angry or irritable;
  • Out of control;
  • Jumpy and finding it hard to concentrate;
  • Dirty;
  • Guilty and embarrassed.

You might also feel:

  • Worried that somehow everyone knows about the assault;
  • Scared it will happen again;
  • That you want to pretend it never happened: ‘I want to block it out’;
  • Like it was not real, ‘Did this really happen to me?’.

You may also notice other changes, such as:

  • Not wanting to eat or eating too much;
  • Not sleeping, or having nightmares and flashbacks;
  • Wanting to push people away emotionally;
  • Not wanting any sexual or physical contact.

Some people feel an overpowering need to move away, change the way they look or change their lives in other ways. Others find it very hard to manage the everyday things in their life, like work or personal relationships.

You may feel some of these things and they are normal reactions. A good counsellor will hear what you are experiencing and help you to see what is affecting you emotionally and physically, and to gain skills to improve how you feel.

It happened a long time ago – why do I still feel like this?

These feelings may come up shortly after the sexual assault or weeks or months or even years afterwards. You might think you have moved on with your life when these feelings come up again. You may find it helpful to talk to someone who can help you understand these feelings and even give you strategies to help you cope.

Kylie’s Story: ‘I was sexually abused by my uncle when I was only 10 years old. I told my mum but we never went to the police, you just didn’t back then. I worried he could be doing it to other kids.

I’m 40 now and I don’t remember being properly happy ever since my uncle first took me into his room. My GP at the Aboriginal Medical Service referred me to a counsellor there. Even though it happened a long time ago the counsellor said it was ok to report to police anyway and a solicitor from the free legal service said the same thing.

I made a statement at the local station. The police didn’t charge my uncle because it happened such a long time ago and the evidence was not easy to find anymore.

But the police and the counsellor said it was sexual assault and I was just a young child and it was really wrong. They said it was not my fault; he was the adult. He shouldn’t have done that to me. Finally talking about it helped.’

How do I choose a counsellor?

Finding a counsellor, psychologist or worker you feel comfortable speaking with is really important. Trying more than one is ok. It’s more important that you find someone who is going to understand you and help you. See our Contacts page for some places you can find someone who will help.

What if I don’t feel the counsellor is right for me?

Move on to another one. There is no point risking your health by staying with a counsellor you do not feel comfortable talking to. Also counselling is not always for everyone. Some people feel better not seeing a counsellor, they may find it easier to move on with their lives without talking over what they went through.

Can anyone else get my counsellor’s notes and records?

Counsellor’s notes and other medical notes should not be given out to just anyone. They are usually kept confidential.

Sometimes in a criminal trial for sexual assault either the defence or prosecution may subpoena records from a counsellor. There is a special law that exists to protect these types of records from being shared in court and it is called the Sexual Assault Communications Privilege (SACP).

If your counsellor or caregiver has contacted you about a subpoena for your records you should seek legal advice from Legal Aid SACP Unit or call Law Access. See Contacts for contact information.

In the Family Law Courts or Children’s Court a subpoena may be issued to your counsellor too. In these courts there is no Sexual Assault Communications Privilege to claim but you can seek legal advice about protecting your privacy. Contact Women’s Legal Service NSW. See Contacts for contact information.

Translate »