Sexual assault is traumatic, especially if it happens overseas and away from home. It can also be distressing for families and friends of victims.
This page gives advice on:
- what to do immediately after a sexual assault
- reporting a sexual assault overseas
- emergency consular support
Sexual assault can happen anywhere, to anyone. Both men and women can be victims of assault when overseas.
People who commit sexual assault may try to control you using drugs, threats and violence.
Sexual assault is an abuse of your sense of safety and control. It can leave you feeling powerless and ashamed.
You may feel powerless, but you can take control of what you do next.
What to do immediately after a sexual assault
Get to safety and get support
Try to move to a safe place.
If possible, find someone you know and trust to support you. You'll need to make decisions after you have been sexually assaulted.
Having a trusted support person can help.
Get medical help
In some countries, sex outside marriage is illegal. Police may prosecute you with criminal charges rather than treat you as a victim if you seek medical help after a sexual assault in these countries.
Sexual assault victims have been arrested or jailed after getting medical assistance or reporting an assault. If you have any doubts about seeking medical assistance after a sexual assault, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate as quickly as possible.
You may need urgent medical assistance. Find a 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 police or other authorities
Find the number for local emergency services in your destination's travel advisory. You can also contact your nearest Australian embassy or consulate. Consular staff can give you a list of local facilities.
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 must be collected within 72 hours of the assault.
To secure the evidence effectively, 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.
In most cases, support is available through 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 if you report a sexual assault in these countries.
Sexual assault victims 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.
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 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.
Sexual assault trials
In many countries, if the case goes to trial, you may have to return to give evidence.
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.
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.
For crisis counselling while you're overseas, contact Lifeline or 1800 Respect. You can also call the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre on+61 2 6261 3305. They can connect you to a telephone counselling service.
Emergency consular support
For emergency support overseas, contact the nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate. Or, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305.
The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help overseas. See the Consular Service Charter.
What we can do
- We can support you to get medical help.
- We can explain your choices and support you if you choose to report the crime to police
- We can provide a list of lawyers and explain legal processes in general terms.
- We can contact relatives or friends, with your consent.
- We can help you access local support services, where available.
- We can transfer you to an Australian sexual assault counselling service, or a Lifeline telephone counsellor.
- We can provide a Traveller’s Emergency Loan if you need emergency money.
- We can help you find accommodation, arrange flights home and contact your travel insurer.
What we can't do
- We can't give legal or medical advice.
- We can't make decisions for you.
- We can't represent you at a trial.
- We can't force local authorities to act. However, we can make representations on a victim's behalf when appropriate.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help you overseas.
- See our factsheet on Sexual Assault Overseas
- Find local emergency numbers in your destination's travel advisory.
- See our general advice if you need urgent medical assistance overseas.
- Read more about about infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections.
- Read the Consular Services Charter.
- For consular assistance, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).
- You may need crisis counselling and support (Lifeline).