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rape; sexual; intercourse; consent; assault; emergency; contraception;


This topic discusses what rape is and what effects it has, reporting of rape, and the support services that are available. It also looks at what you can do if you or a friend have experienced rape. The information presented in this topic mostly assumes that victims are female, however, it is important to remember that boys and men can also be raped.

Anyone who is raped has the right to be supported, take legal action and seek medical treatment.

In most Australian cities there is a Rape Crisis Centre which is staffed by people who can support someone who has been raped (check your local phone directory or, for South Australians, see our resources section below).

What is rape?

Rape is sexual intercourse without consent or with indifference to consent.

  • Indifference to consent is a legal term that means, for example, if a man has sex with a woman who is drunk or drugged and who does not protest, because she is not in a condition to give consent, it is rape. This means that the man does not care whether she gives consent or not (indifference).  

The difference between healthy sexual contact and rape is not the sexual act, but the lack of consent.

  • Examples of lack of consent include using physical force such as hitting, shoving, pushing, slapping, grabbing arms or wrists, and holding down.
  • If pressure is put on you or you are bullied into having sex when you don't want to, or you show by your behaviour that you are not consenting it is still rape, even if you have not actually said 'No'.

Often rapists make excuses in an attempt to justify rape. They often use excuses to try to shift responsibility for rape away from them. It is important to remember that nobody has the right to force someone else into an unwanted sexual activity.

Note: Sexual intercourse in the definition of rape means penetration of the vagina or anus by any part of another person or any object. It also includes mouth to genitals contact.

What we fear and what is more likely to happen

The word "rape" often brings to mind an image of being violently attacked while walking outside late at night. However, most rapes do not happen this way. In the majority of cases people are sexually assaulted by someone they know and sometimes trust. It could be:

  • someone you have just met
  • someone you dated a few times
  • someone you are in a relationship with over a longer period of time
  • someone in your family
  • it might even be a friend.

However regardless of whether you are raped by a stranger or somebody you know, it is a crime of violence and is illegal.

Women often fear they will be seen as somehow responsible for the rape. There are many inaccurate beliefs held in our community about how and why rape occurs, and these add to the distress experienced by survivors of rape.

A survivor may say:

  • "I shouldn't have been there"
  • "I shouldn't have worn such a sexy outfit"
  • "Did I lead him on?"
  • "I should have put up more of a fight"
  • "I should never have trusted him in the first place"
  • "I shouldn't have had so much to drink."

However people who have experienced rape are never to blame. Regardless of whether a woman feels she may have led a man on, if at any point she says or shows that she does not wish to have sex and he disregards this wish, it is rape.

'NO' means 'NO'.

People who have an experience of rape are NOT responsible for someone else's actions. It is NEVER their fault.

They are also not to blame if they did not scream or put up a fight, as fear can prevent someone from doing this. Their behaviour did not cause the rape; it was the decision of the person who raped them. They were not given a choice.

Why does it happen?

  • Some people believe men are driven by their hormones to commit acts of sexual violence towards women. This is not true and this does not explain differences between men across and within cultures and the behaviours they choose. It also does not explain why some women commit rape.
  • Another inaccurate view is that rapists are 'emotionally disturbed'. Research indicates that most people who choose to rape are not mentally ill.
  • These statements are myths and excuses that remove responsibility for the crime of rape away from the person who commits the rape. They ignore the fact that all people have choices, responsibility for and control of their behaviour.
  • There is no single cause of rape. There can be many different reasons why someone will rape someone else.
  • It is important to remember that rape is motivated not by sex, but has other motives such as a desire to dominate and control. See the topic Violence for further information.

Common reactions of rape survivors

Rape is a traumatic experience and you might notice a whole range of different feelings and reactions. It is usual to have a lot of confused emotions after the assault. Some feelings you might have are:

  • anxiety and depression
  • feeling unclean or dirty
  • embarrassed or humiliated - feeling different, "does everyone know?"
  • self-blame and guilt - eg. "could I have stopped it?", "if only..."
  • a state of numbness and shock - denial of the rape and its effects
  • anger - at the rapist, at men, sometimes (wrongly) at yourself
  • helpless - like you have no control over what happens to you
  • concern about 'losing your mind' - not being able to think straight
  • afraid - not being able to trust people, no longer feeling safe
  • afraid of telling someone because you think you will be blamed.

You may also experience:

  • sleeping problems
  • low self-confidence, depression
  • aches or pains - eg headaches, stomach aches
  • eating difficulties - change in appetite, eating disorders
  • sexual problems
  • difficulties in relationships or with intimacy
  • concern over how family friends may react
  • preoccupation with the rape - eg why it happened
  • becoming dependent on alcohol or drugs.

The reactions people experience after being raped often make them feel they are going crazy, but they are normal and to be expected. It is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to feel. Remember that you are not to blame. There are quite simply no excuses or justifications for sexual violence of any kind. Nobody asks or deserves to be raped. It is vital you take care of yourself and have support to help you to cope.

Think about things you can do for your own sense of well-being.

  • Talk to someone you trust. If they make you feel bad or disregard what you are saying, confide in someone else. You need to feel supported. Speaking with someone can help you feel less alone, and to work out what you want to do.
  • Talk to a telephone counsellor. (In Australia you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800).
  • Report it to the police.
  • While support from those close to you is important, you may need professional help to deal with the impact of the rape (see the section on support services). It is important to find a health worker who you can trust. You may be feeling now that you will never be the same again, but in time, most people do recover.
  • Write your feelings down in a journal.
  • Get plenty of exercise, sleep, and eat healthy meals.
  • Make time to do the things you enjoy or feel good at, to build up your confidence.
  • Most importantly, remind yourself that it is not your fault.

Rape myth busters

(Copyright with permission SHine SA)


When a woman says 'no' she really means 'yes' or 'try harder'.


  • Stop when you hear her say 'no'.
  • Without her consent it's rape.
  • Don't act when you are not sure.


It's a man's right to have sex in a relationship.  Rape cannot occur in marriage, defacto or close relationships.


  • It is not a man's right to have sex whenever he wants in ANY relationship.
  • Being in a relationship does not give consent to have sex.
  • Forcing anyone to have sex when they do not want to is rape.
  • A marriage licence is not a licence to rape.
  • There is no substitute for listening to what your partner wants.


Once a man is turned on, he can't control himself.


  • Rape is a choice to control and degrade another person.
  • Many rapes are planned beforehand.
  • Men can control their sexual urges.
  • No matter how much a man is turned on, there are no excuses.


Rape is about sex.


  • It is a crime of violence. It is a violation of a person's rights over their body, their right to decide whether to have sex, their right to choose sexual partners and their right to demand safer sex.
  • Rape is about controlling, harming and degrading someone else.


Drugs and alcohol cause rape.


  • You are always responsible for your behaviour, including how much alcohol and other drugs you take. Your are always responsible for what you do when you are under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.
  • Blaming rape on alcohol or other drugs is a cop out.


Men who rape other men are gay.


  • Most rapes of men and boys are committed by hetrosexual men.
  • Often men who rape other men are in a relationship with a woman.
  • They choose rape as an act of power and violence to dominate, harm and degrade someone else.

Safety tips

People who are raped are never to blame. However there are some things that can be done by both men and women in order to minimise the risk of sexual assault.

  • Be clear in your communication. You have every right to say no and this should be respected.
  • Your needs are more important than being polite. If you feel uncomfortable you can say something like "stop this, I am not enjoying it".
  • Set sexual limits. It is your body, and no one has the right to force you to do anything you do not want to do. Decide early if you would like to have sex, and communicate your intention to your partner.
  • Listen to and trust your feelings. If the situation feels bad, confront the person or leave the situation as early as possible. Do not be afraid to make a scene.
  • Go to places where you feel safe, and be with people you feel safe around.

 For men it is important never to assume that you know what your partner wants.

  • Speak up, ask and clarify what your partner wants sexually. Do not assume to know. Do not pressure him/her if he/she seems unsure.
  • Stay in touch with your sexual desires. You have control over your actions.
  • Not having sex does not mean that you are not a 'real' man. It does not mean that the woman/man is rejecting you as a person, but simply that she/he does not wish to have sex.

 Remember that 'no' always means no.

What support services are available?

Crisis centres in many places provide a range of confidential medical and counselling services, for males and females who experience rape or sexual assault. They are staffed by doctors and trained counsellors. Services vary from place to place, but examples of services provided include the following:

  • A crisis service providing medical care and counselling support for people who have recently been raped. If you have made or are considering filing a police report, you can ask the doctor to collect physical evidence of the assault.
  • Counselling support for recent and past rape survivors.
  • Information on court procedures and compensation claims.
  • Counselling and support for 'significant others' (partners, family and friends) regarding the sexual assault.
  • Follow up medical care for related health problems.
  • Rape and sexual assault survivor groups.

 If you are in danger, call the police or ambulance immediately. Remember that it is not your fault and there are people who will believe you.

Emergency Contraception

Pregnancy can be a result of rape. Emergency contraception may be something you need to think about. Discuss this with the doctor you see. You can also get emergency contraceptive pills without a prescription.

Emergency contraception is very effective if taken with 24 hours of unprotected sex, and usually effective if taken within 120 hours (5 days).

For more information have a look at the topic 'Emergency Contraceptive pills (ECP)'.

Your rights and options in Australia

If you are 18 or over, crisis centres do not require police involvement, and so it is your decision as to whether to report the assault to the police.

If you are under the age of 18 you have to be aware that it is a legal obligation in South Australia for a worker to report sexual assaults to Families SA.

Counsellors can provide information on the options available to you in regard to legal action and police involvement. The choices can be overwhelming but by being fully informed about possible outcomes, risks, waiting times etc., the decision process can seem less confusing. Ultimately however it is your right to make the choices that feel best for you.

Important points to consider

  • If you are considering reporting the assault to the police, you may be given the option of having a medical examination to collect evidence which may be useful in court. The thought of being examined can be very scary, and you may wish to take along a friend or person that you trust. Remember that the doctor will not judge or blame you, and will discuss any concerns you have about your body or what you are experiencing.
  • Even if you do not wish to file a police report, you may still wish to have your body checked for injury. It is also recommended that you have follow-up tests for sexually transmitted infections. This testing can be done at a crisis service, by your local doctor, a family planning clinic, or STI clinic. Think about where you would feel most at ease.

Reporting the rape to Police

  • You can make a detailed statement -and the police may use this to try to charge the person who raped you. This is a key part of any court action. A female police officer takes the statement from you, which includes finding out what happened prior to, during and after the rape
  • You can make a crime report, and sign a statement saying you do not want there to be further investigation.
  • The statement is then sent to the Sexual Crime Investigation Branch. You may be contacted by detectives if they require more information or an arrest has been made.
  • It is advisable to have a medical examination within 72 hours of the assault, as there is less physical evidence to collect as time passes.
  • Remember you can report a rape to the police at any time, even if it happened months or years ago.

Having to give a detailed account of the rape can be very upsetting, however the police are sensitive to this and will try to make the process as comfortable as possible.


South Australia

  • Yarrow Place Rape and the Sexual Assault Service (for people over the age of 16 at the time of the assault)
  • Medical care is also available at hospital emergency departments, your local doctor, and family planning or youth clinics.
  • If you are under 16 you can receive counselling and/or medical support from the Child Protection Units:
    • Women and Children's Hospital Tel: 8161 7346 or after hours 8161 7000
    • Flinders Medical Centre Tel: 8204 5485 or after hours 8204 5511.
  •  Sexual Crime Investigation Branch - police who are specially trained to assist victims of rape, incest, child sexual abuse, and other serious sexual assaults.  
    • Sexual Assault Section - Tel: 8207 5966 (open all hours).
    • Female police officers are available and provide a range of support services, even if police action is not taken, including:
      • advice about the criminal justice system - what actually happens in court, means of giving evidence, arranging a support person or 'court companion'
      • making referrals to counselling services
      • arranging medical examinations
      • collecting clothing and exhibits as evidence
      • preparing victims' statements.
    • In South Australian law, evidence of physical resistance is not necessary to demonstrate that you did not consent. Your case may not be able to be prosecuted if the sexual offence occurred before 1982.
  • The Youth Health Service
    - Central: 57 Hyde St, Adelaide
    - South: 50a Beach Rd, Christies Beach
    - North: 6 Gillingham Rd, Elizabeth
  • Police Attendance in South Australia Ph: 131 444
  • SHine SA (Sexual Health information networking and education)
  • Sidestreet counselling service
    • Uniting Communities - young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and who have experienced sexual or physical abuse - Tel: 8202 5871.
  • Victims Support Service - Tel: 8231 5626.
  • Crisis Care (after hours and weekends) - Tel: 13 16 11
  • Lifeline - Tel: 13 11 14.
  • Kids Helpline for people under 18 years - Tel: 1800 55 1800
  • Your local Community Health Centre.



Yarrow Place  

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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