Sexual assault is a traumatic experience for anyone, particularly when travelling overseas and away from home. It can also be a distressing experience for families and friends.
Sexual assault can happen anywhere, to anyone. Both men and women can be assaulted when overseas.
Sexual assault is never the victim/survivor's fault. The perpetrator is the only one responsible for the assault. No one deserves to be raped or assaulted.
You may feel powerless, but you can take control of what you do next.
What to do if someone has assaulted you
If possible, find someone you know and trust to give you immediate support. You'll need to make decisions that are right for you. Having a trusted support person can help.
The nearest embassy, high commission or consulate can help you with information about your safety, medical facilities, legal concerns and the steps associated with reporting the assault in your location. Contact details are available at dfat.gov.au/missions. You can also contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre at +61 2 6261 3305.
Get medical help
In some countries, sex outside marriage is illegal. Sexual assault victim/survivors have been arrested or jailed after getting medical assistance or reporting an assault. If you have any doubts about seeking medical help after a sexual assault, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate as quickly as possible.
You may need urgent medical assistance. The Australian embassy or consulate will be able to give you information about how to find a hospital.
Use a public hospital if possible. Some countries may not allow you to seek a conviction with medical examination results done by a private or international hospital.
Medical staff can:
- treat your injuries
- collect medical evidence
- help you with emergency contraception
- test you for sexually transmitted diseases
- provide you with post-exposure treatment for HIV/AIDS
- provide advice and help you contact the police or other authorities.
Getting a medical exam quickly may provide important evidence for police. Medical clinics and hospitals generally have special kits for sexual assault testing.
If you're thinking about reporting your assault to the police, medical evidence usually needs to be collected within 72 hours of the assault.
Some countries may not allow you to press charges if you return to Australia without doing a medical exam.
To secure the evidence, go straight to the hospital without:
- changing clothes
- washing or throwing away anything that may be evidence.
Reporting a sexual assault overseas
Sexual assault is a crime.
Support is usually available through the police and the legal system. Once you've reported the crime, the police can investigate.
However, in some countries, sex outside marriage is illegal. Police may charge you with a crime rather than treat you as a victim/survivor if you report a sexual assault in these countries.
Sexual assault victim/survivors have been arrested or jailed after reporting an assault or getting medical assistance.
If you have any doubts about reporting a sexual assault, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate as quickly as possible. Contact details are available at dfat.gov.au/missions. You can also contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre at +61 2 6261 3305.
Sexual assault investigations
Investigations can take some time. If you get a lawyer, they can help police with the ongoing case and keep it active.
In many countries, you must go to and appear in court for the case to proceed. This can be stressful and costly.
If you decide not to appear at a court hearing, authorities are likely to drop the charges.
Consular officers can't provide legal or medical advice. We can provide lists of English-speaking service providers who may be able to help you.
Sexual assault trials
In many countries, you may have to return to give evidence if the case goes to trial.
Only a lawyer can represent you at a trial. Your lawyer should have access to information held by the magistrate about your case.
Depending on local regulations and work priorities, consular staff may observe judicial proceedings.
How do Australian consular staff provide support?
Consular staff may be able to:
- support you to get medical help
- explain your choices, and support you if you choose to report the crime to police
- liaise with local authorities
- provide a list of lawyers and explain legal processes in general terms
- contact relatives or friends, with your consent
- help you access local support services, where available
- transfer you to an Australian sexual assault counselling service or a Lifeline telephone counsellor
- provide a Traveller's Emergency Loan if you need emergency money
- help you find accommodation, arrange flights home and contact your travel insurer.
- give legal or medical advice
- make decisions for you
- represent you at a trial
- force local authorities to act. However, we can make representations on a victim/survivor's behalf when appropriate.
You can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) for assistance from anywhere in the world at:
- +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas)
- 1300 555 135 (within Australia).
Not all countries have an Australian diplomatic or consular post, but there is usually one in the region. The Consular Services Charter sets out the standards of service all Australians can expect to receive from consular staff, including what they can and cannot do. The Charter is available at smartraveller.gov.au/charter.
You may want to talk about what happened and get help from an experienced counsellor. Counselling can give you a safe, private place to talk with someone who'll listen.
It's not uncommon for people to try a few counsellors before they find someone they feel comfortable with.
You can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre at +61 2 6261 3305 from anywhere in the world. If you need counselling, the centre can transfer you to an Australian sexual assault counselling service or a Lifeline telephone crisis supporter.
Support in Australia
In Australia, rape counselling services can assist victim/survivors of sexual assault. Trained and qualified staff will handle your call and provide you with information and support.
Family and friends can also use these services to seek advice and support.
1800RESPECT 1800 737 732
- Australian Capital Territory
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525
- New South Wales
NSW Rape Crisis Centre 1800 424 017
- Northern Territory
Crisis Line 1800 019 116
Sexual Assault Referral Centre 08 8922 7156 (Darwin) or 08 8951 5880 (Alice Springs)
Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 010 120
- South Australia
Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service 1800 817 421
Sexual Assault Support Service 03 6231 1817
Centre Against Sexual Assault 03 6431 9711 (north-west)
Centres Against Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 806 292
- Western Australia
Sexual Assault Resource Centre 1800 199 888
How can family and friends help?
- Always believe victim/survivors of sexual assault and reassure them it's not their fault.
- Try to offer them a safe environment.
- Don't blame the victim/survivor.
- Don't push the victim/survivor to make quick decisions. Let them decide the pace at which they want to talk about the experience. After a traumatic experience, it can take time to open up, even to family members.
- Listen, be patient and supportive.
This information has been prepared carefully. However, the Australian Government can't be held responsible if the information here leads to injury, loss or damage of any sort. 'Australian Government' includes employees, agents, and diplomatic and consular staff overseas.
Consular and Crisis Management Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent BARTON ACT 0221
Tel. (02) 6261 3305; 1300 555 135
Travel advice is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smartraveller website smartraveller.gov.au.