National Response for Sexual Harm

What is sexual harm?

If you have had a sexual experience that has caused you harm, we are here to help. This can include rape and sexual assault from a stranger as well as within a marriage or relationship. It might include sex when you were threatened or forced in some way, or when you didn’t have control because you were asleep or had taken alcohol or drugs. If you have had an experience that has left you feeling unhappy, frightened or anxious, it can help to talk about it, and we have professionals to talk to.

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What is consent?

 ‘Consent’ means you agree to something. The law says that sex or sexual behaviour without your agreement is a crime.

This means that you should only have sex if you want to. Being married, or being in a relationship, does not mean that you agree to sex. If you are pressured to have sex because of financial, relationship or visa reasons, this is considered a crime and is harmful to you. We can support you in these situations.

There are some times when consent can’t be given – if you are unconscious, asleep or drugged/drunk, you can’t agree to sex and so it is considered a crime for someone to have sex with you. Even if you can’t remember this happening, it is still a crime and we can support you.

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The Law

The New Zealand Police have some good information about this.

https://www.police.govt.nz/advice/sexual-assault/sexual-assault-and-consent

It is illegal for someone to force or pressure you into having sex – this is called rape or sexual assault, depending on what kind of things happened.

It is illegal for someone to touch you sexually if you don’t want them to – this is called indecent assault. This includes grabbing or touching parts of your body.

It is illegal for someone to expose themselves to you if you don’t want them to – either by sending you unwanted pictures or by showing their body parts to you, or by showing you pictures of sexual acts. This is called exposure.

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Counselling and Therapy

If you have experienced sexual harm, Shama can connect you with a counsellor or therapist to provide ongoing support through our ACC service. We have therapists right across the country who can work with you – the first step is just to call our confidential service on 07 8433810 or text 022 1359545 and we will work out together who will be the best fit.

This service is completely confidential. When you call us, these are the steps:

  1. Tell the person who answers the phone that you want ACC counselling.
  2. They will not ask you any details about what has happened – you only have to talk to a counsellor about this.
  3. They will ask you some details to help them work out who a good counsellor would be – your name, address, cultural and religious background, age and languages spoken.
  4. They will not give any of your details out without your permission
  5. They will work out who the best counsellor will be, and if you give permission, they will give the counsellor your details, so that the counsellor can call or email you to set up an appointment
  6. They will call you back in a couple of weeks to check that you were able to get in touch, and to make sure you are okay.

We work hard to ensure you can talk to someone who understands your own culture and language, and we will include you every step of the way to help you find the right help.

Sexual harm includes if you have been sexually assaulted or raped, or if you have experienced sexual harm within marriage or a relationship. It can include sexual harm that happened to you when you were a child.

Counselling and therapy can help with many of the feelings that happen after sexual harm has occurred. Even years later, people can remember what happened and feel overwhelmed, tired with tasks that would normally be easy, anxious, afraid of going out and worried about their future. Counselling can help with understanding these feelings, and will help them lessen over time so that you can get on with living an awesome life.

The harm that happened does not have to live with you forever – counselling is one of the things that can help change it.

This service is free of charge.

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Crisis Support

If you have just experienced a sexual assault or have had something remind you of past sexual harm that you experienced, you might be feeling very overwhelmed. You might not know whether to report it to police, and what to do now. Shama has an ethnic person to talk to about it, so that you can find the right support service for you. You can talk to Fariya Begum, or email her on crisis1@shama.org.nz. She understands what you might be experiencing and she knows all the services that can help you. As well as this, she is an ethnic person herself who understands what it is like to try and find people who understand the cultural or religious needs you have.

She will work with you, and the service that you want to use so that they understand your needs and so that you can have a good experience with them.

This service is completely confidential and none of your details will be shared without your consent.

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Preventing Sexual Violence in My Community

You do not have to be a professional to work towards preventing sexual violence in your community. There are many small things you can do to help.

  • Be a non-judgemental listener
  • Know what to do if someone tells you about sexual harm they have experienced
  • Trust your gut instincts – if you feel that something is not right, ask the person you are worried about. You might say something like ‘I’ve noticed you seem very quiet these days, is there anything I can help with?’
  • Promote conversations about difficult topics – sometimes talking about sex is hard to do, and that makes it even harder to talk about when something goes wrong.
  • Encourage community leaders to not be afraid to open conversations about difficult topics
  • Find out if anyone else in your community is interested in talking about this, and get in touch. We can help to facilitate conversations or workshops. There might be mainstream groups you can connect with who can help as well.
  • Remember that sexual violence happens in every community and talk with Shama if you feel that your community is being unfairly portrayed or targeted – we can help with advocacy or by educating local mainstream services.
  • Read the research page of this website – they contain lots of fabulous ideas.