Have you been sexually assaulted or sexually abused?

In the previous 2 weeks?

Emergency service (available up to 2 weeks after a sexual assault)

The emergency service is available to people over 13 years who have been sexually assaulted in the past 2 weeks. To access the emergency services, clients must telephone SARC.  Emergency services for people under 13 years are provided by the Child Protection Unit at Perth Children’s Hospital on (08) 6456 0089.

A sexual assault can be extremely traumatic for the survivor. They can experience a range of emotions and find it difficult to make decisions in the short term. However, timing can be extremely important. For example, immediate action can be very important for treatment of injuries, testing and treatment of infections, emergency contraception and gathering of forensic evidence (if this is wanted by the patient). In some cases, forensic evidence may only be available for 24 hours after the assault- so it is important to contact SARC immediately.  After 2 weeks, it is highly unlikely that forensic evidence can be collected.

Directions on contacting SARC in an emergency following a sexual assault is available here.

If you have experienced any form of strangulation, or pressure to the neck, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Further information about non-fatal strangulation is available.

Medical care

SARC doctors provide free testing, advice and treatment in relation to
  •  the risk of pregnancy
  •  emergency contraception
  •  sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  •  blood-borne infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

Forensic care 

SARC doctors DO NOT work for the Police. However, they can perform a forensic examination if the client wants to involve the Police. A forensic examination involves collecting samples of physical evidence (biological, toxicology and clothing). These items can be used in any future court proceedings. Evidence can be collected and stored for 6 months if the client is unsure if they want to report to Police or not. After 6 months, SARC will contact the client to find out if they have made a decision about reporting to Police.

More information on reporting to Police.

Counselling support at emergency appointments

A SARC counsellor is present to support the patient throughout any medical and forensic examination carried out by SARC doctors. Ongoing counselling is also offered following an emergency consultation. Ongoing counselling aims to assist the patient in dealing with the psychological impacts of sexual assault including the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. 

SARC can provide the support of an Aboriginal worker for Aboriginal people and their family, if this is wanted by the client.

Contacting in an emergency after a sexual assault

You can telephone SARC at any time of the day or night following a recent sexual assault.

Telephone (08) 6458 1828 Telephone 1800 199 888 (free call from landlines)

A woman talking on the phone at her workstation

After 4.30pm, your call will be answered by an after-hours service. They will ask your name, contact number and some basic details. If the situation is an emergency, a counsellor will call you back on the number you have provided. During this phone call, you will be asked about the safest way for SARC workers to contact you. If you believe you may be put in danger by receiving mail, phone calls or emails, it is important that you tell the SARC workers so this can be avoided. Client safety is extremely important to SARC.

If the situation is not an emergency, you will be asked to call the SARC office after 8.30am the next day.

If the situation is an emergency, you may be asked to meet a doctor and a counsellor at the SARC building in Subiaco (this includes night times and evenings). The address will be given to you over the telephone. If you are injured  (for example, if you have head injuries, loss of consciousness, significant genital bleeding), you may be asked to go to the Emergency Department of a hospital and the SARC workers will meet  you at the hospital. SARC workers can also see people in inpatient mental health facilities. Further details on finding SARC.

If you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, SARC workers will arrange to see you at a time when you are sober and coherent. This is for legal reasons- people under the influence of drugs/alcohol cannot legally give consent to receiving a service or treatment.

It is your choice whether you choose to report the sexual assault to Police. You can access SARC services whether you choose to report to Police or not. SARC workers can assist you to report to Police if this is what you would like to happen. You may be unsure if you want to involve the Police or not- you can talk this through with SARC workers if you choose.

More information about SARC services.

A comfy chairA comfy couch and paining on the wallA water cooler

A SARC emergency waiting room.

In the past?

SARC Counselling Services

SARC provides counselling to people who have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused at some time in the past (there are no restrictions based on how long ago the assault or abuse took place). SARC has both female and male counsellors and preferences are given where possible.

Sexual violence can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. It can affect relationships, coping, self-worth, and confidence. Victims often experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder such as:

  • Upsetting or distressing nightmares related to the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks, which can feel like the event is happening again
  • Physical reactions to psychological reminders of the traumatic event, such as reactions on a certain date, or to a smell or sound
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings or even people that are connected to the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself or the world
  • A sense of blame for one’s self or others, related to the event
  • Being stuck in severe emotions related to the trauma (e.g. horror, shame, sadness)
  • A reduction in going out or being involved in usual activities
  • Feeling detached, isolated or disconnected from other people
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability, increased temper or anger
  •  Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Constantly on high alert (hypervigilance) and constantly on the lookout for danger, even when it is not there
  • Being easily startled
Two comfy chairs in our waiting room

SARC counsellors are experienced in providing counselling to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Counselling is also available for partners, family and friends.  Where the victim is accessing the SARC therapy service, SARC are usually able to provide short term follow up for significant others.  Support needs can be discussed with duty counsellors and counselling can be organised where appropriate. 

SARC has several outreach locations where counselling can be accessed including Midland, Gosnells, Joondalup, Clarkson, Fremantle, and Rockingham. To make an appointment at these locations, it is necessary to call the central SARC office on (08) 6458 1828.

Apart from individual counselling, SARC offers group sessions to those who have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused, including a sexual abuse survivors group, a mindfulness skills group and a group for men.

More information about SARC group programs.

What happens in counselling

Two women in a counselling session

In counselling, clients will meet face to face with a counsellor after they have first made contact with SARC by phone (08 6458 1828 or free call from landlines 1800 199 888).  Once it has been established that SARC is the right agency for the individual at this time, they will be allocated a counsellor at either our head office in Subiaco, or one of our outreach centres in metropolitan Perth.  The counsellor will telephone the client and offer them an appointment time that is mutually agreeable. During this call, the client will be provided with the address and additional appointment information. With the client’s permission, a reminder text can be sent the day before their appointment.  Clients are welcome to inform their counsellor of any particular concerns they may have either before they begin counselling, or at their counselling sessions. The counsellor will always ensure that clients are treated with empathy, compassion and an understanding of trauma.

The counsellor will focus on the client’s feelings and emotional reactions and together with the client, explore strategies to help them to recover from the trauma and to feel in control of their lives. Clients will not be forced to talk about anything they do not want to talk about.

In counselling, clients can expect to:

  • Be treated with dignity, respect and understanding 
  • Be believed 
  • Have an opportunity to express feelings and thoughts without being judged 
  • Receive accurate information 
  • Make decisions in their own time 
  • Communicate in their own language, with the help of an interpreter if required 

A counselling session is usually 50 minutes to 1 hour in length.  As a general guide, SARC can offer up to 15 counselling sessions per client, and there are no fees.

Contacting for crisis counselling

If you are in crisis emotionally, you can speak to a SARC counsellor over the telephone between 8.30am and 11pm any day of the week. 

Telephone (08) 6458 1828

After 4.30pm, your call will be answered by an after-hours service. They will ask your name, contact number and some basic details.

A counsellor will call you back on the number you have provided. The counsellor can provide telephone counselling and support until 11pm.

You do not have to provide your full name and contact details if you do not want to, but a telephone number is needed so the counsellor can contact you.

Contacting to request a counselling appointment

You need to telephone SARC between 8.30am and 4.30pm on weekdays to request a counselling appointment.

Telephone (08) 6458 1828

A man talking on the phone

Your call will be answered by a SARC counsellor. They will ask you some details such as your name, contact details and date of birth. They will also ask basic details about the sexual violence to ensure that SARC is the most appropriate service to help.

You will then be contacted by a counsellor and your counselling needs will be discussed. At times, when there is high demand for counselling, a waiting period may be necessary. SARC offers emergency counselling in the interim if required and this will be individually assessed at the time of the first phone call. You may be offered up to 4 emergency counselling sessions to help reduce your immediate distress and help maximise your coping strategies. Your counselling needs will then be reviewed and discussed as to best options for you moving forward.

During the initial telephone call, you will generally be asked if you would prefer to have counselling at SARC in Subiaco or at a centre in a suburb closer to your home.

If SARC is not the best service to provide assistance, you will be provided with details of another, more appropriate service to contact.

What happens when you arrive at SARC?
When you arrive at SARC, you will be greeted by a member of the administration team who will invite you to sit in the waiting room or if preferred, in a private space while you wait to see your counsellor or Doctor.

Our reception staff have received training in working with trauma and will be sensitive to the issues you may be experiencing.  Please advise SARC reception staff if you have any particular needs.

Tea, coffee and other hot drinks as well as reading material are available to you in the waiting areas.  There are also some colouring in materials and a small number of puzzles and activities for children if needed.  

Clients with small children are encouraged to use the King Edward Memorial Hospital crèche or to try and organise care with family members or friends.  The hospital crèche is open 9am-3pm, Monday to Friday for children between 2 and 7 years old. No appointment is necessary.  Appointments at SARC can be lengthy and SARC workers are unable to provide supervision to children. 

Your SARC doctor or counsellor will be notified as soon as you arrive at SARC. They will come and get you from the waiting room and take you to a private room for your appointment.

Counselling appointments typically run for one hour though some may extend to one and a half hours.  Your counsellor will advise you when your appointment is going to be longer.

If you are attending SARC following a recent assault, your appointment may well be longer than the standard one hour counselling appointment and in some cases can take up to 3 or 4 hours.

Reporting to the Police
You may decide you want to report the sexual assault or sexual abuse to the police. This is an individual decision which only YOU can make. 

Some of the reasons why people choose to go to the police are:
  • To feel believed 
  • To feel empowered 
  • Because they don’t want it to happen to anyone else 
  • Because they want justice 
  • To let the perpetrator know that what they did was wrong

People also choose NOT to go to the police. This is a personal choice and the reasons for this may be because:

  • They think they will not be believed 
  • They feel humiliated or guilty 
  • They think it’s their fault 
  • They know the person who assaulted or abused them 
  • The person who assaulted or abused them has threatened them if they told anyone 
  • They are afraid to go to court 

You can choose the following:

  • You can choose to do nothing. 
  • If you are unsure about reporting, you can speak to the police informally, either on the telephone or in person. The police will tell you about your options, but they will not do anything unless you want them to. 
  • You can make an informal report. This means the police will write down what happened, however you sign a statement saying that you do not want the matter investigated. 
  • You can make a formal statement. This means a full report of the incident is typed and signed by you when you are satisfied with the contents. A report can take several hours to complete. The police will then investigate the incident. If you change your mind later you must tell the police as soon as possible. However, if the police have already charged someone, you cannot withdraw your statement. During the investigation the police might ask you to take them to the place where you were assaulted so they can gather evidence. They may also interview any witnesses to the assault. 

In Western Australia sexual assault and sexual abuse are ‘crimes against the state’. This means the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions decide whether they have sufficient evidence to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that a crime has occurred. If you make a formal statement to the police, you become a witness to the crime. The police or the Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether they have enough evidence to ‘press charges’. If the police do not lay charges it does not mean that they do not believe you. Sometimes there is not enough evidence for charges to be laid. This can leave people feeling disillusioned and denied justice. It can help to talk about these feelings with a counsellor or advocate.

Going to court can make you feel empowered, but it can also be a confusing and frightening experience. You can talk to someone at Victim Support Services to get information about the court proceedings. Victim Support Services also have support workers who can go to court with you.

Trials usually take place in the District Court, unless the offender is under 18 years of age. It can take up to two years between the time of the initial report to the police and the trial. Some cases do not go to trial because there is not enough evidence. This does not mean that you were not believed.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial, people often feel better knowing that they were able to speak out about their experience, even if the verdict is 'not guilty'.

SARC staff respect and support ANY decision you make, regardless of whether you decide to go to the police or not.

How do I access these services?

SARC Emergency Service is available 24-hours-a-day.

To speak to a duty counsellor:

Tel: (08) 6458 1828

Freecall: 1800 199 888