At Tullamore Rape Crisis Centre, we provide support and services for survivors of sexual abuse and sexual violence. Below, we have answered some frequently asked questions. To get support or to find out more, freephone 1800 32 32 32 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently asked questions
Information about sexual violence
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence is an all-encompassing term - we use it to include rape, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, intimate partner sexual violence, sexual harassment, coercive control and other forms of abuse.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a wide ranging term that refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim. It can include:
Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
Forcing someone to perform sexual acts
Being made to look at pornography
What is rape?
Rape is penetration (no matter how slight) of the mouth, anus or vagina with an object or the penis without consent. Rape is never the victims fault - it is always the fault of the perpertrator.
What is childhood sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse is when a child is forced or maniuplated into taking part in sexual activity. It can take many forms, including:
Being made to watch sexual acts
Being made to look at pornography
Being watched in a sexual way
Being touched in a sexual way
Being made to masturbate or to masturbate the abuser
Being raped (penetration of mouth, anus or vagina by any object, by a finger or penis)
I have just been raped/assaulted - what should I do?
Try to get to a safe place and seek support from someone who can help you now. If you are injured, seek medical attention – call 999 or 112.
What is a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit?
Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU) provide specialist care for people who have recently been sexually assaulted or raped. If you are under 18 years of age, you must have a parent or legal guardian with you to give permission for a forensic examination.
The SATU services respond to requests from Gardaí to aid the legal process. They also provide services for people who do not wish to report the incident to the Gardaí. There is no charge for any of the SATU services or follow up appointments.
What happens if I report to the Gardai?
Rape Crisis Centre counsellors will give you, or assist you in obtaining, all the information you need in order to be able to make a decision about whether to report or not. If you do decide to approach the Gardai, we can arrange this for you, and can facilitate the statement being taken in a Centre if that feels safer than going to the Garda station.
If you decide to go to the Gardai, the following information should be helpful to you: Bring someone you feel comfortable with. You are entitled to have them stay with you if you want. However if they are present during the taking of your statement their details need to be included and they may be called as a witness. For this reason, the Gardai may ask that you not be accompanied during the actual taking of the statement. If however you want the person present insist on it!
Make a note of the names of any Gardai or detectives you have significant contact with from the time you first report. THE GARDAI HAVE A DUTY TO KEEP YOU INFORMED OF THE PROGRESS OF YOUR CASE
You may ask to speak to a female Garda, if you wish.
If you are reporting a recent assault, take a change of clothing including coat and shoes as the Gardai may keep the clothes you were wearing to gather forensic evidence.
Do not take any alcohol or drugs, but if you have done so before the recent assault this should not prevent you from reporting.
If reporting an assault/rape - report as soon as possible. There is no time limit, but valuable forensic evidence is lost quite quickly.
If reporting an incident of child sexual abuse, or of sexual assault/rape that happened some time ago, it is of advantage to have as many witnesses as possible who can testify to strengthen your case.
The Gardai will ask you questions but they should only be relevant to your case.
You will be asked to make a written statement; this means a detailed description of the events before, during and after the attack. Make sure you read your statement carefully and change it if necessary, before you sign it. You are entitled to, and should request, a typed copy of the statement you have given.
If you remember other details at a later stage, you can make a supplementary statement. If the alleged perpetrator is identifiable, the Gardai may interview the person soon after you make your statement.
If the identity of the perpetrator is unknown to you and the Gardai arrest a suspect you may be asked to look at photographs or attend an identity parade.
You may also be asked to go with the Gardai to where the incident took place, in order to try to identify the person who assaulted you.
If you feel you are not being treated well by the Gardai at any stage of proceedings, you can insist on seeing the duty officer or you can make a formal complaint.
What can I expect from counselling?
Within the counselling relationship you are given the time and space, not always available in other parts of your life, to explore your feelings in relation to the trauma. Our aim in counselling is to help you reach your full potential, so that your experience of sexual violence no longer controls or overwhelms your life, behaviour and choices. The counsellor is a neutral professional so you do not need to protect them from the intensity of your feelings or the details of your trauma, as you might feel obliged to do with the family or friends you confide in.
How long will I be in counselling?
The pace of healing is very individual and is affected by such things as the duration and intensity of the sexual violence, the person's relationship to the perpetrator, previous traumatic experiences and the degree of support available to the client outside of the counselling setting. People will usually have weekly sessions for some time, and begin to spread out the time between sessions as they become stronger and better able to manage on their own.
Is there any help for my partner/family/friends who may be upset about what I have told them?
Learning that someone you care for has experienced sexual violence can be quite a shock and may induce feelings of helplessness. We have a counsellor available to talk these feelings through.
Will counselling help me forget?
Forgetting events of such an extreme nature as sexual violence is not a realistic or even desirable goal of counselling. What the counselling process can hope to achieve is that the event becomes something which no longer take over your day to day life. You may in fact, find in the course of counselling that you begin to develop positive aspects of yourself that may have lain dormant for many years or may have been under-developed. Counselling will help you understand that what you are experiencing is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. This does not in any way minimise the range and intensity of feelings experienced by you but re-affirms their normality in the context of what has happened to you.
Family and friends
Information for friends and families
YOUR IMPORTANCE AS A FRIEND
Supporting a survivor of childhood sexual abuse
Many of the experiences already talked about in the context of rape are similar for survivors of childhood abuse: the differences can be that the abuse may have gone on for years, that it happened to someone who was still a child and that the abuser may have been a father or other trusted adult. Some people block out memories of their abuse for many years and only begin to remember in their 20’s and 30’s or even later. Others simply never tell anyone what has happened to them and may feel responsible for the abuse and suffer much from self-hatred for years. When someone you care about tells you about their childhood abuse it is common to feel anxious and overwhelmed. It is a compliment to your relationship that they told you but don’t be sworn to secrecy – you may need to talk to other people, although this should only be done with care, and in confidence. Do not treat them differently because of what they have told you – they have not changed in the telling. Be clear and honest about what support you can offer them and what you feel able to hear. At the same time show your commitment to helping your friend find any other resources she may need.
Taking care of your friend
Some survivors harm themselves in a variety of ways’ they may be anorexic, or they may engage in self-harm. It’s okay to object – you don’t have to accept that this is an inevitable result of the abuse. Try to understand why your friend / partner is doing these things and spend time with them working out other ways of dealing with their feelings. Learning to care for themselves is important – exercise, massage, relaxation and cooking can all help survivors learn new ways of treating themselves.
Physical relationhsips after rape or assault
Experiences of sexual violence can mean that women distance intimacy, whether in the context of close friendships or sexual relationships. Memories of terror and pain may pour out in response to the tenderest touch. If your partner has been raped or sexually abused they may not want to have physical contact or have you physically close. Respect their wishes and tell them that you will not pressurise them. For some survivors, childhood abuse blurred the line between sex and affection and this can affect friendships as much as sexual relationships. Discuss this with your partner / friend and negotiate what kind of touch is welcome. It is important that survivors feel they can take charge again in this way and for partners to respect the survivors needs, whether it’s just to be held or not to be touched at all for a time. There are lots of ways to show affection and have fun, but the most important is probably talking and listening. Again, if you do not understand your partner’s needs and reactions as regards their body and you are confused or angry over it, it might be good to talk to someone -either someone at Rape Crisis or someone you trust.
Surviving rape and sexual assault
Information on surviving rape and sexual assault
It is often very difficult to talk to anyone about your experiences of sexual violence but, if you think you need to talk to somebody, please call us. You will not be asked to say any more than you want to. If you want to call just once or come in regularly, that’s okay – it’s your choice. You can talk to us if it was someone you know who assaulted you, your husband or a relative or a friend or a stranger; if it happened a long time age or just recently. All sexual violence is serious – we will listen to you and take you seriously.
Emotional responses to rape
It is possible to heal from the effects of an attack or rape, and return to living a fulfilling life to your full potential. Rape is a violent crime and a violent expression of power. It is always terrifying, degrading, humiliating and distressing. Immediate responses to an assault can range from numbness and disbelief, causing one to appear calm and rational, to extreme anxiety, fear and disorientation. Rape violates your self respect, causes humiliation and embarrassment. You deserve and need support. Women who have talked about it afterwards feel less guilty and ashamed because they were able to express their anger and discuss the crime as something that happens to many women. You must remember that RAPE IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
At present Irish society does not recognise the extent and reality of sexual abuse against boys and men. Some would even deny that male rape exists. Perpetrators of male sexual abuse are generally male, but can be female. Our contact with male survivors has shown that they come for help more readily where there is an environment of awareness and understanding of the extent of male abuse and the specific issues and dynamics. Sexual abuse and rape have, in the past, been seen as a largely female issue and support services have traditionally been regarded as filling a female need. However, all Rape Crisis Centres will either see male clients or refer them to the appropriate local service. Some centres will have partner organisations that see men only, and in many centres male counsellors and volunteers are available.
What is trauma?
In a dangerous situation the human defence system produces a certain set of reactions. We feel what is often described as an “adrenaline rush” which helps us to be more alert than usual. We focus all our attention on the immediate situation. We might disregard hunger, fatigue or pain. Emotional reactions to danger involve feelings of intense anger and fear.
What are normal trauma reactions?
- Changes in eating / sleeping patterns
Fear of going outdoors, or of being home alone, in the dark or unfamiliar places – other fears Variations in moods, intense and very confusing emotions, depression, embarrassment, anger, humiliation etc. or no emotions at all (may alternate)
Not being able to trust others, disruptions in intimate relationships
Compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate)
Sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative
Sense of being completely difference from other people, isolation, withdrawal
Trauma and childhood sexual abuse
Many survivors who have been abused as children keep silent about what has happened to them. Abusers may be strangers, but often they are fathers, brothers, stepfathers, grandfathers or trusted family friends. Sometimes children may be abused by adults or young people of the same sex. Some are abused in groups: in residential settings, in sex rings or rituals. We are often too afraid to tell someone at the time. Our abuser may have threatened us not to tell or we may tell someone who does not believe us.
Rape Crisis Centre Information
Gardaí/SATU Phone Numbers
Tullamore 057 9321305