From court support to care packages – helping people heal after sexual harm

Aviva Sexual Violence Services

Aviva is well known for our family violence services. But what many people don’t realise is that for the last decade, we have been supporting ever increasing numbers of people who have experienced sexual harm. Now these people make up around 50% of our overall client numbers. So, what does this work look like?


Aviva’s Sexual Violence Services (formerly SASSC) typically support people in crisis immediately following a sexual harm incident or report.

‘The counsellors are the ones that take you apart and glue you back together. But we’re industrial strength duct tape,’ says Dana, one of the clinicians.


Over time, the work of the team has expanded, not just in volume, but in scope. A person does not have to report the incident(s) to Police to get support from Aviva.  However, should they choose to, their support worker can walk alongside them all the way up to and beyond the court process, should charges be laid. In the last year, our in-court support has increased significantly. This support is vital because the process itself can be extremely retraumatising and people don’t know what to expect.


And in the last year, the team’s work has included support for the Royal Commission’s Inquiry into abuse in state and faith-based care. Members of the team have been providing wellbeing support to people before, during and after they give evidence.


Whatever the situation, Aviva’s Sexual Violence Services support people through an extremely traumatising and difficult time. Recently, with support from the public, we have put together resource and care packages for clients in the immediate aftermath of an assault.

“When we see clients following an acute sexual assault they are understandably and normally experiencing trauma responses and often have to go through a forensic medical exam.  Under those conditions, it can be very difficult to take on and remember much verbal information,” says Jo, Client Services Manager.


The care packages include information about trauma, and support options. However, they also contain things like pamper items and new blankets, which people can wrap around them while they are waiting. This is a common form of self-soothing and is a way to regulate. Each package also has a small knitted heart, handmade by one of our clinicians, which gives people something to hold or focus on.

“One client took the heart into the examination room and she told her support worker she held it the entire time. It sounds like a small thing, but it isn’t, it makes such a difference,” says Jo.


The Sexual Violence Services Team has grown in the last year, in line with increased demand for support.

“It’s a sad indictment on our society,” says Jo. Although she acknowledges that an increase in demand could mean a decrease in people who are afraid to ask for help, which in a country where less than 10% of assaults are reported, is no bad thing.

“There is more public and government recognition of what is required and that’s heartening. Sexual violence happens in all genders, all classes, all cultures; it’s ruthlessly democratic that way. We need to keep having the conversation; we need to keep talking about it.”