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Sexual violence can happen to anybody. It involves any kind of unwanted sexual actions a person does to someone else. It can also be known as sexual abuse, sexual harm, or sexual assault. It can affect people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, cultures, religions, backgrounds, wealth, or status.
Sexual violence can be done to others by someone of any gender type.
Sexual violence can include a wide range of unwanted sexual behaviour
It can include rape, physical violence (including assault, choking and strangulation), unwanted touching or kissing, incest (within the family), revenge pornography, recordings, or psychological or verbal abuse of a sexual nature.
It can include behaviour that doesn’t actually involve touching, such as intimidation and making sexual threats or threats of punishment if a person doesn’t obey instructions. It can include filming someone or making them watch pornography against their will. Sexual violence and abuse can also be a part of family violence and harm.
If you are a victim of sexual violence or abuse, you are not to blame for this crime. The perpetrator is. No-one has the right to harm you.
This crime may have happened to you recently or a long time ago, or even in your youth or childhood. It may have happened just once, or many times. Whatever your situation is, help is available.
You can call Victim Support's helpline 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a specialist sexual violence support provider in your community.
See also the Steps you can take section below for more support options.
Go somewhere safe
This is to make sure you are protected right now from the possibility of further harm. Any of the helplines below can assist you to do this. They can also help you work out the next steps you can take.
Get medical help for any injuries
If you have been hurt, see a doctor, go to a hospital emergency department for help, or call an ambulance. People heal better and sooner if they have medical assistance. Have the doctor prepare a report that can be shared with police. Even if you’re not sure about reporting to police, it’s important to collect the right medical information at the time in case you decide to use it later.
Reach out for specialist sexual violence support
We work with specialist sexual violence support agencies to connect you with the right support you need to stay safe. The specialists in these agencies are non-judgemental and professional, and they can organise the most appropriate help for you. What you say will be kept confidential. You can contact a sexual violence support agency even if you haven’t reported the incident to police.
Call the National Sexual Harm Helpline Safe to Talk
They can help you over the phone or internet or connect you with a sexual violence support agency in your own area. Their confidential support is available for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can provide links to special support for Māori, Pasifika, migrants and refugees, LGBTQI+, and male survivors. They offer helpful resources and information about sexual harm.They also provide a Language Line if you prefer to talk in your own language, offering translation services available in over 40 different languages.
Freephone 0800 044 334 or text 4334.
If you want to use their Language Line for a translation service into your own language, just tell them when you call, saying the name of your language.
Live webchat at safetotalk.nz
You can also contact this service if you want to get support for someone else.
Information about other local sexual violence services available in your community can be found here.
For male victims of sexual violence
If you have experienced sexual abuse or sexual violence either recently or in the past, Male Survivors Aotearoa is a network of organisations that provide support services for men around the country.
For rainbow community victims of sexual violence
Sexual violence can happen to anyone, whether you’re straight or part of the rainbow community.
Safe to Talk is a non-judgmental, welcoming helpline (also listed above) that supports people of any gender who have experienced sexual or physical harm, including the rainbow community. They can be accessed free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by phone, text, website, online chat and email on:
- Freephone 0800 044 334 or text 4334.
- Website/online chat: www.safetotalk.nz
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are also some other nationwide support services offering support specifically for the rainbow community.
- OUTLineNZ: 0800 688 5463 (9am-9pm weekdays, 6pm-9pm weekends)
- RainbowYOUTH: (09) 376 4155 (11am-5pm weekdays)
- TOAH-NNEST: 24-hour helplines based on your location
These rainbow sexual violence help resources may also be helpful:
- Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura – Outing Violence raises awareness of partner and sexual violence in Rainbow communities, and develops strategies and resources in consultation with communities around Aotearoa New Zealand.
- See the Police Rainbow Communities Family Harm pamphlet.
Report the incident to police
Your safety is the police’s highest priority. They can work with you to take the necessary steps to keep you safe. It’s your choice whether you tell police what happened to you. At any point you can decide that you don’t want the case investigated any further, but the police will continue to support your safety and protection.
You don’t have to report a sexual violence incident immediately. You can take some time to decide what you want to do. You can report sexual violence or abuse to police if it happened to you days, weeks, or even years ago.
Police understand that reporting a sexual crime is very sensitive and difficult for many people. They will make sure that you get the support you need to help you through. The police will provide respectful, non-judgemental support to anyone wanting to make a report.
The sooner a crime is reported the easier it is for police to investigate it. This may result in the offender to be caught, charged, and brought to court.
Go to the New Zealand Police for important practical advice about reporting a sexual violence crime or abuse here.
If sexual violence or abuse has just happened, or you’re feeling threatened and unsafe, call 111 and ask for police.
If you are not in immediate danger, please call the police non-emergency number/line on 105, or go to your local police station. We suggest you take a trusted person with you for support.
If the sexual violence or abuse happened some time ago, it can still be reported to police. Call the police non-emergency number/line on 105, or visit your local police station and tell them that you want to report a sexual assault. We suggest you take a trusted person with you for support.
Being sexually harmed is frightening and traumatic. Most people will experience a range of strong reactions to what happened. These reactions may continue for some time and can be hard to deal with. There may also have been injuries that need medical help and time to heal. Even if a person isn’t physically harmed it is likely they will be psychologically affected.
Everyone’s different and will react in their own ways
Common reactions include shock, fear, helplessness, feeling overwhelmed, confusion, denial, ongoing anxiety, feeling unsafe, difficulty concentrating, anger, guilt, shame, whakamā, or feeling unclean. There can be disturbing memories, nightmares, or flashbacks, as if it were happening again. Often people try hard to avoid anything that brings back such bad memories. You may have difficulty sleeping or a changed appetite. Other physical symptoms can include shaking, body aches, nausea, upset stomach, and headaches.
All these kinds of reactions are normal responses to a frightening, traumatic event. Your reactions will be unique to you. They might affect you more, and for longer, than you expect.
When you’re ready, reach out for help from a specialist support agency
They have the knowledge and skills to support and help you to decide about what to do. Telling them what happened can help release some of the intense emotional stress inside. Using their specialist assistance, and the love and support of others who care about you, can help you on your recovery journey. See the section above, Steps to Take for sexual violence support agencies’ contacts.
Looking after yourself is important
Make time to take care for yourself. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.
A flashback feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.
Coping with the trauma and loss
These information sheets suggest ways to cope with the effects of frightening events, and with loss and grief when life is no longer how it was before.
You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846, to be connected to support. We work with specialist sexual violence support agencies to get you the help you need to stay safe. A specialist agency can listen, help you decide what to do, and provide practical assistance for your own situation.
We can link you to them, or you can call them directly yourself. See the section above, Steps to take for contact details of support agencies that can help you.
In some cases, Victim Support can also provide some financial assistance to assist with costs resulting from a sexual violence crime. If you were the victim/survivor of a sexual crime that occurred on or after 1 January 2010, and you reported this crime to police, you may be eligible for financial assistance for costs related to the incident under the Victim Financial Assistance Scheme administered by Victim Support. Please call us on 0800 842 846 to enquire about this.
A range of other financial support, including for counselling and lost earnings, is available through ACC. If you've experienced sexual abuse or assault call ACC Sensitive Claims on 0800 735 566 or visit FindSupport to find out more.
Other useful websites and information
Me Too NZ Workplace sexual harassment website. Free information, advice, support and advocacy.
Victims Information: For people affected by sexual violence is a website run by the Ministry of Justice to help victim/survivors of sexual violence (and their friends, family and whānau). It contains information around the reporting, investigation and court process as well as the roles of people in court. It also includes a helpful court process diagram.