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Rape and Sexual Assault

What is sexual violence? 

Sexual violence is any form of sexual activity that takes place without the other person’s full and informed consent. This includes physical contact, words, or photographs.
 
Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, class, or background. Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault; the fault lies solely with the perpetrator and there are no excuses or justifications for this behaviour. 
 
Rape and sexual assault can be carried out by a stranger, but often the perpetrator is someone known to the victim such as a husband, boyfriend, friend, colleague or other family member. 
 
Although research shows that the majority of sexual violence is experienced by women and girls, both men and boys can also be victims.
 
Sexual violence can include:
  • Pressuring or forcing someone to do something sexual
  • Touching someone sexually without their permission
  • Watching a sexual act take place without permission
  • Engaging in sexual acts with someone who is too intoxicated to give consent
  • Engaging in a sexual act with someone who is asleep or unconscious
  • Having sex with someone who cannot legally consent – for example, a boy or girl under the age of 16, or someone with disability who does not have the capacity to understand the situation
  • Making someone watch or appear in pornography against their will
  • Preventing someone from using contraception
 
 

What is consent? 

If you have experience sexual activity you have not consented to, this is sexual violence. Understanding consent is vital. 
 
  • Consent is showing or verbally communicating a clear ‘yes’ to your partner. If a person is not sure whether their partner has given consent, they should ask.
  • To be able to consent, a person must have both the capacity to say yes and must understand what is happening and what they are agreeing to do .
  • The absence of “no” doesn’t mean yes. Someone might have been pressured or frightened into doing something they don’t want to – this means they haven’t consented. If a person is not sure whether their partner is consenting, they should ask.
  • Everyone has the right to say no to any kind of sexual activity, or to change their mind at any time before or during sex.
  • It is also important to remember that there are some groups of people who cannot consent under law. If someone is not physically or mentally capable of making a decision to have sex – or they can’t understand what they’re agreeing to – they cannot give consent. For example, if someone is very drunk or intoxicated when they agree to sex, the law recognizes that they don’t have the capacity to give ‘true’ consent.
  • The age of consent in the UK is 16. Anyone below this age cannot legally consent.
 
Click here to view a video that explains consent, developed by Thames Valley Police. 
 
 

Support for victims of rape and sexual assault

 

If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault then we have a support service that can help, including our own Independent Sexual Violence Advisory (ISVA) Service. This support can include emotional help and / or assistance through the Criminal Justice System, if you do decide to report the crime, as well as coordinating any other health or additional support you may require.

You can use the directory on the left-hand side of this page to find the right service for you.