Sexual Abuse

What is Sexual Abuse Counselling?

Sexual abuse counselling is counselling that covers a wide range of offences involving unwanted sexual behaviour that is used mainly as a way of asserting power and control over another person. There are many myths around what sexual abuse is.

Sexual abuse basically refers to any unwanted sexual behaviour which makes a person feel uncomfortable, threatened or scared. It covers a range of different types of assault including:

  • Rape which is classified as forced, unwanted sex or sexual acts
  • Child sexual abuse is when any person uses power over a child to involve that child in sexual activity
  • Indecent assault is any assault that occurs under indecent circumstances

Sexual abuse counselling is specialized therapy for anyone who has been affected by this crime.

Why do people sexually abuse others?

Sexual abuse is not just about offenders getting pleasure from sex, but can also be about them asserting power and control over someone else. Some offenders have been abused themselves, but this is not always the case. There is no evidence that being a survivor of sexual abuse means that a person will abuse others, and it is important to get specialized help in the form of sexual abuse counselling.

Sexual abuse of any form is a crime and is never justified. It is never the fault of the victim. Sexual abuse counselling can help you to manage difficult emotions and thoughts.

Myths and facts around sexual abuse

Myth – Only women can be sexually assaulted/abused
Fact - Both men and women can be sexually abused or assaulted, and both can benefit from sexual abuse counselling.  A perpetrator (the person responsible for the assault) can be any gender, and of any sexual orientation.

Myth – Women often falsely accuse men of sexual abuse in order to get attention
- The majority of sexual abuse is truthfully reported. In fact, a lot of women and men do not report sexual assault for fear of not being believed.

Myth – Most rapists are strangers
- The reality is that most perpetrators of sexual assault are actually known by the person assaulted.

Myth – It’s not sexual abuse if you’re in a couple or married
- Unwanted sexual activity in any relationship is assault.

Myth – If you’re drunk or wearing a certain style of clothing, you’re partially responsible for your assault.
- Sexual assault survivors are never responsible for somebody choosing to assault them, under any circumstances.



How sexual abuse might affect you and why you should get sexual abuse counselling

Everyone reacts to sexual assault differently and it is important to get specialized sexual abuse counselling. It can have a range of immediate, short-term and long-term effects on physical and emotional wellbeing. Effects can include:

  • Shock and denial – eg “Has this really happened to me?”, “Why me?”; an inability to accept that it has really occurred.
  • Fear – Of a number of things, including the offender, being alone or of not being believed.
  • Silence – Being unable to talk about the assault, to describe what it means or feels like; afraid of being judged.
  • Anxiety – Being unable to relax or feel safe.
  • Depression – Feeling sad and as if things are hopeless.
  • Guilt and blame – A feeling of “Why did I go there/allow it/not fight back?”.
  • Low self-esteem – Feeling unworthy, not confident or deserving, feeling ashamed and dirty.
  • Isolation – Wanting to be alone, closed off from family and friends.
  • Nightmares + flashbacks – Images and memories of the assault intruding on daily life and sleep.
  • Mood swings – Going from anger and rage to tears and despair.
  • Loss of confidence – In work, in study, in social and intimate relationships.
  • Loss of trust – Within social or family relationships.

Sexual abuse counselling can help you to confront painful thoughts and feelings.

If you have experienced sexual abuse

It is really important that you let someone know if you have experienced sexual abuse. It is not something you have to live with on your own, and sexual abuse counselling can help you.

For emergency situations that require immediate and urgent assistance call 000.

Bright Ideas Psychology has trained practitioners to help you deal with the aftermath of sexual abuse and provides sexual abuse counselling.  We are registered with Rape Crisis NSW as providers of sexual abuse counselling.