Advice if you are experiencing domestic or sexual violence
In an emergency
If you are at risk of being assaulted, or have been assaulted, you should contact Police on 131 444 or 000 (for life threatening emergencies). You do not need to call your local Police station as calls to 131 444 or 000 will be dispatched just as quickly to the local area.
If you have experienced, or are experiencing, domestic violence
Remember that the violent behaviours that hurt you are not an expression of love or caring. The person who uses abusive and violent behaviour does so to get their own way and to control you. These are behaviours that are often only used against you and possibly your children – not at work, not at the sporting club and often not in public.
It is important that you realise that you are not responsible. It is not your fault. You have the right to live without fear and abuse. The next step is to seek the help, information and support.
You don’t have to go through this alone. Talking to someone can help you decide what to do. Think about who you could trust to talk with safely. Just talking it through with someone else can give you a bit of distance to see the situation more clearly. Talk to a trusted relative, friend, neighbour, workmate or community worker about how unhappy you are at home.
The length of time you have been experiencing the abuse and the level of violence being used against you may influence what you choose to do. Many people use a combination of all sorts of things before finding something that works for them and is safe for them.
What can you do?
If someone is hurting you it can be hard to know how to stop it. It is important to remember that no one has the right to be violent towards you and there are people out there who can help.
Below are some of the different forms that domestic violence may take:
- Physical – If someone is hurting you, or threatening to hurt you, or your children, other loved ones or a pet.
- Emotional – This form of violence is often unrecognised and can be very hurtful. It can have a big impact on your confidence and self-esteem.
- Financial – If someone is controlling your money, or keeping you financially dependent.
- Social –If someone is insulting you or teasing you in front of other people, keeping you isolated from family and friends, controlling what you do and where you go.
- Spiritual – This type of violence involves a situation where you are not allowed to have your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs, and values.
Being safe is important and there are things you can do to ensure your safety. Sometimes it is hard to work out the danger or risks yourself. The Domestic Violence Crisis Service can help you work out the risks and how to stay safe. They recommend the following steps to ensure your safety:
- Is there immediate danger? How likely is it that someone will hurt you? If necessary, you may have to move to somewhere safe.
- Do you have support? Making a decision to leave a situation where you feel unsafe may be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, counsellor or youth worker
- Talk to the police: If you feel unsafe the police are good people to talk to. If you or someone you know has been hurt, the police will be able to help
- Believe in yourself: If someone is hurting you or threatening to, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence. Remember it is never ok for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you
- Know your rights: It may be a good idea to check out your legal rights.
Services that you can access in the ACT
The Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) gives priority to the safety of people who have been subjected to violence and abuse. If you are experiencing violence, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service can provide you with:
- Crisis intervention and telephone support 24 hours a day/ 7days a week by ringing 6280 0900.
- Information and referrals for women, men and young people.
- Helping with access to safe accommodation i.e. refuges, motels
- Court support for those who have been subjected to violence.
- Support for family and friends of those affected by domestic violence
- Works co-operatively with other agencies to reduce the incidence of domestic violence in the community.
Support in a crisis
If Police are called to an incident of domestic violence, they will suggest that you can be assisted by DVCS. DVCS can offer on-site assistance to all parties, including those who have used violence. DVCS will proceed to the home to offer a range of supports including practical assistance, access to emergency accommodation, emotional support, information and safety options.
Where it is not safe or possible to come to the home, workers may meet at a safe location away from the home.
DVCS will also arrange to meet people in a safe place following an incident if the Police are not involved.
To access support in a crisis, DVCS is available by telephone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Callers can remain anonymous if desired.
Contact numbers are:
Crisis Line 62 800 900 (24hrs/7days)
TTY 62 281 852 (Telephone Type Writer for Hearing Impaired)
Telephone support includes crisis counselling, information, options and support.
Information, referral and advocacy
DVCS can help you with safety planning; legal and emergency accommodation options; referrals to refuges, medium term and longer term accommodation options; referrals to counselling services, and can assist you with dealing with agencies including the Police, ACT Housing, Centrelink, Immigration, and child protection agencies if you wish. They can also provide transport to court and appointments where needed, and organise child care.
Where charges have been laid by police, DVCS will liaise on your behalf with other agencies such as Australian Federal Police, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the ACT Courts to ensure your support needs after experiencing violence and abuse are met and that their safety and the safety of their families is prioritised.
DVCS also continues follow up contacts after the initial crisis.
DVCS also has online information about Safety Planning during a violent incident at home, or safety when preparing to leave your home, or Safety with a protection order – you can link to it at http://www.dvcs.org.au/domesticviolenca.html .
DVCS can support people who have experienced violence to attend court for:
- Applications for Domestic Violence Protection Orders in the ACT Magistrates Court; and
- Witness support in Family Violence criminal matters
DVCS can also provide access to telephone interpreters and written information in a number of different languages.
Staying safe at work
Work may be a place where you feel safe, and where what is happening at home has no impact – it is a private matter. But domestic violence can impact on you at work in different ways:
- You may be covering up what is happening at home
- You might be prevented or delayed from getting to work
- You might be harassed or intimidated at work
- You may become distressed and upset at work
- You may find it hard to manage your workload and deadlines
Domestic violence can make it hard for you to perform your duties and can also be a workplace safety risk.
And domestic violence doesn’t always stop at home. The perpetrator might make it hard for you to get to work, they might harass you at work or when you arrive or leave. You might be worried that because of what is happening you might lose your job.
Should you tell your employer about what is happening?
You only need to tell your workplace about things that directly affect or impact on your work. This includes anything that could pose a workplace safety risk. Is the abusive person:
- Constantly calling, emailing or texting you at work
- Following you to or from work
- Making threats to harm you or your co-workers at work
- Threatening to tell your boss embarrassing personal information
- Coming into or hanging around your workplace to intimidate you
If any of these things are happening, you should tell your workplace. Your job and your safety might be at risk. Another thing to consider is whether you need to negotiate time off to go to court, to organise temporary safety measures such as changes to your working times and patterns, or attend appointments with support services, your child’s school or your bank.
Telling your workplace may be difficult, but being upfront about your situation may make it easier if the abusive person tries to cause trouble for you at work.
Workplaces have a duty to ensure health and safety. Workers also have a duty to take reasonable care to protect their own safety. You might want to talk to your workplace about what it can do to assist you to be safe and keep doing your job. Safety planning can include things like:
- Having someone walk you to your car or transport when you leave work
- Asking your workplace to notify relevant staff not to tell anyone private information about your location or movements
- Making sure you’re not left alone at a work location with public access
- Providing a photo of the abusive person to front desk staff, so that they can identify them and call the police if necessary
If you are worried about telling your workplace, it’s best to get advice first:
Women’s Legal Service
Legal information, advice and referral for women. Initial contact is by telephone, face-to-face advice may be available in certain circumstances.
Telephone advice 9.30am – 12 noon Monday to Friday
Face-to-face advice 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday and 5.30pm – 7pm every second Tuesday, by appointment only.
1800 634 669 (02) 6257 4499
Domestic Violence Crisis Service
Information and referral for people affected by domestic violence.
(02) 6280 0900 TTY: (02) 6228 1852
For more information see Workplace Guide Domestic Violence Safety Planning on page 10 in Domestic Violence and the Workplace: Employee, Employer and Union Resources.
If you have experienced sexual violence and assault
Sexual assault can be a life threatening experience which can leave you feeling numb, shocked and overwhelmed. Everyone reacts differently. There are no right or wrong ways to feel. A sense of unreality – did this really happen to me? – is a normal reaction to such a frightening and humiliating attack.
In the weeks after an experience of sexual assault you will probably feel a whole range of different emotions. It is important to understand that this is because you have had a very traumatic experience, not because anything is wrong with you.
Many women describe feeling some or all of the following things:
You might find that you search through everything that happened prior to the assault – from the clothes that you were wearing that day, to why you decided to go out or stay at home – looking for a reason. Your behaviour did not cause the assault. The only person responsible for the assault is the person who raped you.
Shame and Embarrassment
You might feel that you are different from everybody else or that people will know that you have been raped. Remember, you are not alone. Anger at the attacker, at the injustice of the situation or at the fact that while men rape, woman can’t ever be really safe. Sometimes you may turn the anger towards yourself because you think you should have been able to avoid the assault. It is important to remember that nothing in your behaviour is responsible for his behaviour.
The list of “if onlys” can be endless and this can leave you feeling guilty even though you are in no way to blame.
Powerless and Helpless
Rape is a violation of your right to control what happens to you, your body, your emotions and your senses. It can leave you feeling that nothing you do or say matters any more.
That you survived the assault.
A lot of things that felt safe before may no longer feel that way. You might feel scared or threatened in familiar places or situations – being at home, going out, being in a crowd, or walking to work.
Some women feel unclean or dirty after a rape and want to shower a lot in an attempt to wash those feelings away. It is important to remember not to shower if you want to report the rape (see Forensic Examination)
Sleeping may be difficult or you might have nightmares. Or you may feel that you want to retreat to bed and sleep a lot. Also the stress of dealing with the rape may make you run down or unwell for a while.
What can you do?
What to do if you are raped
- Try to get to a safe place
- Remember it was not your fault and it is not your shame
- Contact someone you trust – a friend or the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre
- Go to a doctor that you trust and have medical examination as soon as possible. This is important for your health
If you want to report the rape to the police, it is important that you do not:
- have a shower or a bath
- brush your teeth
- go to the toilet until after you have seen a a doctor
As hard as it may be not to clean up you may destroy important evidence if you do
- If you want to report the rape, it is best to contact the police as soon as possible
- If a woman tells you that she was raped, believe her and support her whether she decides to go to the police or not
Services that you can access in the ACT
If you have been raped you can phone the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on (02) 6247 2525. CRCC is available for any woman, or child who has experienced any form of sexual abuse (adult rape, childhood sexual abuse, ritual abuse or sexual harassment) whether it is a recent assault or an assault that happened years ago.
CRCC can provide:
- Confidential counselling and support for women and children who have experienced any form of sexual assault recently or in the past
- Immediate crisis appointments for women and children
- Confidential counselling and practical support for women who have been raped or have experienced childhood sexual abuse or ritual abuse, recently or many years ago
- Crisis phone support available from 7am until 11pm, 7 days a week
- 24-hour crisis callout service available through the Forensic & Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) and/or Sexual Assault & Child Abuse Team (SACAT) services
- Support through all legal and medical processes, including court preparation
- Information on legal and medical processes
- Referral to relevant agencies, services and government departments
- Support for family and friends
- Support groups for survivors of sexual assault
CRCC is staffed by specially trained workers. These services are free and confidential. Rape Crisis workers can accompany women and children to the Australian Federal Police Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team (SACAT) if they wish to report the rape to the police. You can also contact the police directly on 131 444.
Crisis phone counsellors will put adult male survivors in contact with SAMSSA (Services Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault) who can support them if they want to report an assault to the police. You can use the Rape Crisis services without reporting the assault to the police.
So contact the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre to get information to help you think about what you can do.