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Information for Students

This page has been printed from the Yarrow Place website

Every year, Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service receives numerous enquiries from students wanting information about rape and sexual assault and the services available for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

This booklet has been prepared to answer some of those inquiries.

Different students are interested in different topics. Some are doing health assignments and they are generally more interested in the impacts of sexual assault and the services available to people who have been assaulted. Others are doing legal studies and may be more interested in the law and criminal justice system. Others again might be more interested in causes of sexual assault or strategies to prevent it.

A short booklet like this cannot provide all the information for all those areas of interest. Instead, it provides:

  • introductory information about some of the most commonly asked questions;
  • information about where to find out more about each topic.

The booklet is not designed to help people who have been raped or sexually assaulted, or people who want to help someone who has been sexually assaulted.

If you want to talk to someone about something that has happened to you or to someone you know, check the list of services at the back of this book.

A Note on Language

Why use the phrase “rape and sexual assault”?

Rape is a legal term. It defines the actions and behaviours that constitute the ‘crime of rape’. Sexual assault is a broader term. It can range from sexual harassment to rape.

The word ‘rape’, used by itself, ignores the other offences and underestimates their significance to the people to whom they happen. Some people who have been raped, however, do not feel as though the term ‘sexual assault’ adequately describes what happened to them. In order to be inclusive, we use the term ‘rape and sexual assault’.

What do we call a person who has been raped or sexually assaulted?

The word ’victim’ is a statement of fact from a legal point of view - the person is the victim of a crime. But it carries connotations of powerlessness, and like any label, it can influence both the way the person sees themselves and the way others see them.

Should we call the person a survivor? For many people rape is a life threatening experience. The term ‘survivor’ emphasises the strength and capacity for survival, and focuses more on the future than on the past – but it still defines the person in relation to the experience. It can also “feel untrue” to a person who does not feel as though they are surviving the experience particularly well.

In this booklet, we also use the term “person” to mean an individual who has been raped or sexually assaulted except where ease of reading/clarification dictates otherwise. In those circumstances, we use “victim/survivor”.

When the term ‘adult’ is used in this booklet, it is in the context of the eligibility criteria for Yarrow Place, which is ‘people aged 16 years or over at the time of the rape or sexual assault’.

What do we call people who have committed a rape or sexual assault?

Dilemmas of labelling also exist in regard to people who perpetrate rapes and sexual assaults. Do we call the person a rapist? Some would argue ‘yes’ - that it is important to name the truth; to place the responsibility squarely where it lies. But there are two main arguments against it. One is that it excludes and minimises other forms of sexual assault. The other is about the impact of labelling.

The label influences the way the person sees themselves for example, a person who is innately like that and has no choice to act in any other way. This may influence the way they could act in future. The term “perpetrator” includes the whole range of sexual offences, but exactly the same arguments about labelling apply.

The language that both acknowledges the behaviour and leaves room for change is ‘a person who has committed (or perpetrated) a rape or sexual assault’, and we have used it where possible, however, in most cases we have used the term ‘perpetrator’ for ease of reading.

Using gender-neutral language

Most victims/survivors of rape and sexual assault are female and most perpetrators are male. Some people argue that it is important to use ‘gendered language’ (‘she’ for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted, ‘he’ for people who have committed the rape or sexual assault) in order to highlight the gendered nature of the crime.

The difficulty in using gendered language is that the experience of men who have been raped or sexually assaulted is overlooked. In the interests of inclusivity, we have tried to use gender-neutral language.


The issues relating to culture, language and rape and sexual assault are varied and can be quite complex. We can only hint at a few things that you might like to consider.

Cultural factors will apply to different groups. Different religions view sexual rights and responsibilities differently. Different ethnic groups have different understandings of what does and does not constitute rape or sexual assault and different traditions of dealing with it. Young people may have different perspectives than older people; and different sub-cultures (for example street-kids and university students) will have different ways of talking about it. All these cultural groups, however, are bound by Australian law.

Download Booklet

Student Information Booklet 2009 (PDF 339KB)


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Updated April 12, 2010
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