Being sexually assaulted can happen to anyone, whether you are young or old, gay or straight. It may have been a night out with friends that ended badly, a past abusive relationship that you are still struggling to come to terms with or abuse that happened when you were a child. If this has happened to you it can feel overwhelming and you may need some support.
Sexual assault occurs when non-consensual sexual acts take place. You have the right to choose who you are going to have sex with and what you will consent to do sexually within that relationship. Unfortunately offenders, who have more power over those who are not able or willing to give their consent, do not always respect these boundaries. If you have been subjected to sexual abuse it can have a significant impact on both your physical and mental well being.
Abuse can include rape, fondling, verbal harassment, and visual harassment (when someone forces you to look at sexual pictures or movies you don’t want to see). Sometimes, you might want to say yes because you’re afraid or feel threatened. You can say yes and still be a victim of sexual abuse.
Whatever anyone might say, nobody has the right to touch you, speak sexually to you, make you look at or watch sexual pictures or movies, or have oral, anal or vaginal sex with you if you don’t want them to. There are support groups available to help you if you are raped, and they will ensure that your rights are protected.
What should you do if you’re raped or sexually abused?
- If you’re abused, call the police and a trusted family member. The police will not force you to lay a charge, but they will help you.
- Don’t take a shower, bath, or brush your teeth. Write down the details of your attack and the attacker. This might be hard, but it’s important evidence.
- Make sure that the police take you first to a clinic, hospital or district surgeon’s office. Ask for a rape kit exam and get tested for STDs and pregnancy. You should be given antiretrovirals (if you are not already HIV Positive) within 72 hours. If you think you were drugged, ask the doctor to take a urine sample.
- Find a safe place, away from your attacker or abuser. Ask a trusted friend or family member for moral support and a place to stay.
- Remember that it wasn’t your fault. Emotional and physical healing take time. Counseling can help.
What are some of the symptoms abuse survivors experience?
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fear or anxiety
- Bad dreams or flashbacks
- Not being able to feel happy or feel love
- Life Line’s 24 hour telephone counselling for general trauma. Call their National counselling line on 0861 322 322 or visit their website for more information at lifeline.co.za
- Childline works collectively to protect children from all forms of violence and to create a culture of children’s rights in South Africa. For immediate assistance, call their toll-free number on 08000 55 555 or visit their website for more information at childlinesa.org.za
- Open Door Crisis Care Centre in Pinetown. It is a non-profit, interdenominational outreach organisation established in 1997 that assists anyone that is in crisis or trauma. Phone: 031 709 2679 Website: opendoor.org.za
- Rape Crisis Centre in Cape Town – An NGO supporting and empowering rape survivors within the Criminal Justice System and in communities.
- Observatory Counselling line: 021 447 9762
- Athlone Counselling line: 021 633 9229
- Khayelitsha Counselling line: 021 361 9085