The Immigrant Women’s Support Service (IWSS), a specialist sexual assault and domestic violence support service, aims to raise awareness on the issues of consent and sexual violence, as well as promoting IWSS services to community leaders, survivors and the general multicultural community.
Consent and intimacy
Sexual violence impacts the lives of many people all around the world and in Australia. For many survivors, the negative effects of this form of abuse are wide-ranging and can be long term. In addition to the impact on the individual, sexual violence has a collective impact on the wellbeing of our communities (Boyd, 2011).
What is consent and sexual violence?
Sexual violence includes a wide range of unwanted sexual behaviours that someone is pressured, forced, or tricked into doing without agreeing to it. Physical force or the threat of physical force may or may not be present. Due to coercive control, someone can find themselves in a situation of sexual activity that they do not consent to.
Consent means giving your free and voluntary agreement to engage in a specific sexual act. Consent can only be given if there is no pressure, force, or fear present and with full understanding of the situation and the nature of the act.
Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sex and needs to be sought continuously. It is never okay to continue with a sexual activity if the other person wants it to stop.
Healthy sexual intimacy requires the consent of everyone involved (IWSS, 2003). Just because a woman is in a relationship or married, this does not mean that she must consent to sex. In contrast to common belief, most of the perpetrators of sexual violence know the person they abuse beforehand (AIHW, 2020). Sexual abuse can be committed by someone that the person knows and loves. A spouse may be charged with sexual assault based on information provided to Queensland Police by the other spouse. Sexual violence is not a private or personal matter. In Australia, sexual violence in any form is against the law.
Sexual violence can have many negative impacts on survivors, including, but not limited to; guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear, nightmares, insomnia, mood swings, memory and concentration problems, flashbacks, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, emotional numbness, sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, relationship problems, social isolation, unwanted pregnancy, infections, and physical injuries (IWSS, 2019; Easteal & McOrmond-Plummer, 2006).
Regardless of gender, age, cultural background or the community they belong to, no one deserves to be abused. The person being abusive is responsible for their own behaviour. Everyone has the right to feel and be safe.
Where to get support
If you need support for sexual violence or domestic violence, you can contact Immigrant Women’s Support Services (IWSS). IWSS provides a specialist sexual assault and domestic violence service to women and their children from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The support IWSS offers is free and confidential, and includes a range of practical and emotional support. Among other supports, IWSS provides crisis intervention, safety planning, advocacy, assessment, case management, counselling, information, and referrals to a range of other services. IWSS works closely with specialist service providers in family law, immigration, domestic violence law, mental health, accommodation, and income support services. IWSS specialises in working with immigrant women and the particular complexities they face in trying to navigate the justice and support service systems. Immigrant women may also experience a lack of family and social support.
IWSS engages interpreters and encourages women to make their own decisions. The support IWSS offers is trauma informed and culturally sensitive. IWSS is respectful of diverse religious and spiritual beliefs.
IWSS offers direct support in the Brisbane City Council Area, Monday to Friday 9-4pm. From Richlands IWSS also provides Sexual Assault Support – Brisbane Southwest Support Service for Sexual Assault (BSwS) in partnership with Murrigunyah, BRISCC and Zig Zag.
IWSS is funded by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General to provide sexual assault and domestic violence services. These two services are delivered from an integrated service model. Additionally, the Department of Social Services provides IWSS with funding to distribute emergency relief to people in financial distress.
Immigrant Women’s Support Service
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Sexual assault in Australia. Canberra: AIHW.
Boyd, C. (2011). The impact of sexual assault on women. Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Immigrant Women’s Support Service (2003). Consenting Sexual Activity in a relationship or marriage. Brochure
Immigrant Women’s Support Service (2019). Sexual Violence Support Service. Brochure
Easteal, P., & McOrmond-Plummer, L. (2006). Real Rape, Real Pain. Help for women sexually assaulted by male partners. Hybrid Publishers.
Article contributed by the Immigrant Women’s Support Service.