Sexual assault survivors need more clinical support


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Content type
Media release

May 2016

The guidelines, ‘Establishing the Connection’ were designed for use by clinicians in Victoria’s sexual assault and alcohol and drug sectors.

Institute Director, Anne Hollonds said the guidelines aimed to support clinicians to encourage clients with a sexual assault history to seek specialist help if they have substance issues.

“There is a clear relationship between sexual assault and negative outcomes later in life with survivors often experiencing depression, panic disorders and substance use,” she said.

“Sexual assault survivors may use alcohol and other drugs to dampen or ‘turn down the dial’ on the intense feelings of distress, anger, fear and anxiety that can be linked to their traumatic experiences.”

The guidelines were produced as part of research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies that was funded by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) in partnership with CASAForum and UnitingCare ReGen.

ANROWS CEO, Heather Nancarrow said the research report recommended practitioner guidelines as a key resource for enhanced service delivery. 

“Based on national Australian survey data, 17 per cent of women and 4 per cent of men report that they had been sexually assaulted since the age of 15, with around 12 per cent of women and 8 per cent of men sexually abused during childhood,” she said. “However, this is likely to under-estimate the extent of victimisation from sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

“These guidelines aim to stop clients with complex assault and alcohol and drug issues falling through the cracks because of a lack of time, resources, clinical experience, confidence or access to appropriate support services.”

Australian Institute of Family Studies Director, Ms Hollonds said the new guidelines were needed to ensure those Australians who experienced sexual assault and substance issues received the treatment they needed.

“Clients may be reluctant to discuss sexual assault or substance use.  However for those who do reach out for help, being able to offer timely and appropriate support to navigate the system could lead to better outcomes. 

“Practitioners need to ensure that the person who has experienced sexual assault maintains control over the next step, such as whether they choose to use alcohol and drug specialist services.”

Read the research report Establishing the Connection: Interventions linking service responses for sexual assault with drug or alcohol use/abuse

AIFS Media contact: Luisa Saccotelli 0400 149 901 or Aileen Muldoon 0419 112 503. 

ANROWS Media contact: Jess Gregory (0408) 800 699.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies is the Australian Government's key research body in the area of family wellbeing. AIFS conducts original research to increase understanding of Australian families and the issues that affect them. Go to:

ANROWS is a national research body that produces evidence to guide policy and practice aimed at addressing violence against women and their children. Its research program looks at ‘what works for whom’ in addressing domestic, family and sexual violence. 

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]