An indecent assault can have a huge impact on the victim’s life. There is not only the incident itself to deal with, but also any resulting court case, and what happens when that process is over.
The court process for sexual offences, such as indecent assault in NSW, can be difficult for victims, as they will often be required to remember and recount a traumatic experience in front of strangers. In addition they may find themselves being questioned aggressively by the defence, which can be extremely distressing.
Many courts in NSW have measures in place to help ease the court process for victims of indecent assault, including being able to close the courtroom, and give evidence via videolink. But what happens once the case is over, and the victim goes back to their normal life? The psychological impact of being a victim of sexual assault can last for a lifetime, and may lead to wide range of different problems, which can include:
- Feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness.
- Feeling guilty or as if they were somehow to blame for the assault.
- Feelings of anger.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Ongoing feelings of fear.
- Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships with the opposite sex.
- Post-traumatic stress symptoms including flashbacks, emotional withdrawal and nightmares.
Victims of violent crime in NSW may be eligible for free counselling sessions through the Approved Counselling Scheme. There are a number of other ways that may help victims come to terms with the impact of being a victim of indecent assault, including:
- Talking about what happened with a trusted friend or family member.
- Reducing other forms of stress in their lives.
- Taking time to do things for themselves.
- Getting plenty of sleep, exercising and eating healthily.
Victims of indecent assault in NSW can find it difficult to talk about the assault for fear of shame, stigma or concerns that nobody will believe them. The strain of bottling up emotions can lead to anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
The reluctance to talk about indecent assault by victims is believed to be one of the reasons why indecent assault and other sexual offences have a relatively low conviction rate compared to other crimes. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, 70% of sexual assault incidents are not reported. Of those that go to trial, only one in 10 defendants receives a guilty verdict.
Indecent assault, and other more serious sexual offences including rape and child abuse, are often committed by someone who is known to the victim. This can make it harder to talk about, and more difficult to prove as it is often one person’s word against another with little corroborating evidence. This also makes proving a court case beyond a reasonable doubt very difficult.
There are a number of victim support services available, which can help victims of a wide range of different crimes, including indecent assault, get access to help and resources so they can start to get on with their lives.
Victims of indecent assault in NSW may be able to access counselling from psychologists and social workers, financial support if they need to take time off work, and assistance navigating the legal process associated with pressing charges and giving evidence.