An open letter to the Australian media: You are telling the wrong story!

There was a time in the not too distant past where Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC) was often contacted by media asking about how they should report sexual assault so as to not cause further harm to people in the community impacted by sexual assault, should they read or see the proposed story. There was a time where media guides for reporting sexual violence were endorsed by local and commonwealth governments. This was such a good time because we were working together using the power of the media and the power of trauma knowledge, to ensure we did no further harm and were educating the community at the same time.

Media is a powerful driver of social change and can influence the culture, behaviours and attitudes that drive violence.

Recently CRCC have been contacted by media a number of times asking us to confirm different things that relate to Brittany Higgins. The reason seems to be to publish yet another story aimed at shaming, blaming, and discrediting a young woman. A young woman who very well could be our friend, partner, child… In fact she is all of those things… It is the wrong story.

These are not positive experiences for us, as we were contacted in an attempt to pervarively criticise a young person publicly, to tear at her story, her life and her pain. The media wanted us to join the circus, we wanted no part of it.

Sexual violence happens because power is abused. 

Sexual violence has terrible consequences for children, adults and young people. It divides communities, and silences people. It causes disconnection, creates grief and its prevalence rates shock and horrify us all! 

In response we pick at the story to put holes in it, act in disbelief, blame the victim, shame the impacted! By doing this we close the door on them, we make them feel like they can’t seek help and are taking the easy way out. This is not the right story.

Survivors of sexual violence are the people in front of you, those you work with, friends and family –
you just may not know it… When they see the headlines, read the stories, it tells them to stay silent.
We know that does not work, we know it causes further harm. We can be better than this!

Headlines come and go, but the impact of headlines can last a life time.

How can we ever move through this time and be better at responding to sexual violence if we are hurting people more as we dissect their lives publicly and consistently?

How will we ever end the scourge of sexual violence in our community if we do not take control of ourselves and our narratives? 

How will those impacted by sexual violence ever tell their stories, if we weaponise sexual violence in this way?

We wanted the media to ask about the Australian sexual violence prevalence rates: 1 in 2 women, 1 in 3 girls, 1 in 6 boys, and 1 in 16 men. We wanted them to ask about why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are sexually assaulted more, and why disabled people are targeted for sexual violence, or young people, or those from the LGBTQIA+ communities. We wanted them to ask how we are working towards a world where there is no sexual violence, and how they could help end the impact of these horrendous crimes. We wanted them to ask about how the local government joined
together to try and work out how to fix this problem. We wanted them to ask about where to go to for help?

That is the right story… The real story… The one with concern, compassion and humanity… 

Lets try for that story!

Chrystina Stanford 
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre CEO
June 2023

National Support Services 


1800 RESPECT: National Domestic & Sexual Violence Support Service

Available 24/7     PH: 1800 737 732     WEB:


QLife: LGBTQIA+ peer support and referral 

Available 3pm – midnight every day     PH: 1800 184 527    WEB:


Rainbow Sexual, Domestic & Family Violence Helpline (Formerly LGBTIQ+ Violence Service)

Available 24/7     PH: 1800 497 212


MensLine Australia: 24/7 online counselling support for men

Available: 24/7     PH: 1300 78 99 78     WEB:


Kids Helpline 

Available 24/7     PH: 1800 55 1800     WEB:


13Yarn: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander crisis support service

Available: 24/7     PH: 13 92 76     WEB:

State & Territory Support Services 


ACT: Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 

Available 7am – 11pm every day 

PH: (02) 6274 2525     WEB:


Queensland: Statewide Sexual Assault Helpline 

Available 7.30am – 11.30pm every day

PH: 1800 737 732     WEB: click here for more QLD services  


NSW: Statewide Sexual Violence Helpline 

Available 24/7   PH: 1800 424 017    WEB: click here for more NSW services 


Victoria: Sexual Assault Crisis Line 

Available 5pm weeknights through to 9am the next day and throughout weekends and public holidays     PH: 1800 806 292

WEB: click here for more VIC services 


Northern Territory: Sexual Assault Referral Centre – Darwin 

Available: 24/7     PH: 08 8922 6472     WEB: click here for more NT services

Western Australia: Sexual Assault Resource Centre

Available 24/7     PH: 1800 199 888     WEB: click here for more WA services 


Tasmania: Sexual Assault Support Service 

Available 24/7     PH: 1800 697 877     WEB: click here for more TAS services 


South Australia: Yarrow Place – Rape and Sexual Assault Service 

Available 24/7     PH: 1800 817 421     WEB: click here for more SA services