“Hey Sister, we’ve got your back” is a network of Aboriginal women from all around New South Wales who are working to prevent sexual violence.
The network brings together Aboriginal women who are already talking about the impacts of sexual assault, who are educating and supporting people who have been impacted by sexual violence so that they are supported and able to stand even stronger against sexual violence.
In Moree last month, eight Aboriginal women working against sexual assault professionally or within their communities discussed the manifestations of sexual assault and what kinds of further support Hey Sis Advocates require.
Common consequences of sexual assault were identified and discussed at the Moree conference. Silence is a result of sexual assault, as the incidents are often hidden to protect family members. Victims of sexual assault can also face community backlash if they choose to speak out. They risk being accused of lying or causing family breakdowns.
It can be difficult for victims to access support and services. Due to community gossip, those experiencing sexual assault can only speak freely to people outside the immediate community. It is also common for women experiencing sexual assault to feel reluctant to be seen as a ‘victim’.
Workers and supporters often face community opposition and pressure to be silent, while also looking after their own families. Additionally, their work carries a risk of vicarious trauma. In western NSW, Hey Sis will now focus on taking steps to manage vicarious trauma, building networks in the local community and promoting the network.