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Sexual violence

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is any sexual contact that is unwanted or against someone’s will. It includes all forms of sexual acts including rape, sexual assault, sexual touching, sexual harassment, sexting or threats of sexual violence.

Sexual violence means any touching that you don’t want or that makes you feel uncomfortable, including when you don’t feel able to say no.

Sexual violence is never your fault, no matter what you were wearing, who you were with, where you went or how much you had been drinking.

The person who commits the assault is always to blame for making the choice to commit assault.

Is rape always carried out by strangers?

No, most victims of sexual violence experience it from someone they know. Most studies have found that between 85 to 90 per cent of people knew their attacker.

Rape can happen to anyone of any race, religion or social status.

Who are the victims?

  • Spouses and partners (and ex-spouses and ex-partners)
  • Adults and children
  • Men and women
  • Strangers and acquaintances
  • Sex workers
  • People with learning difficulties or mental health problems
  • Anyone

Is it my fault if I am drunk or wearing certain clothes?

No one is to blame for sexual assault except the perpetrator. Despite this, a study in the UK found that a quarter of people believe that a woman is at least partly to blame for being raped if she is wearing ‘sexy’ or revealing clothing, or is drunk.

Further myths

  • Rape is committed by strangers in dark alleyways
  • Those who rape are monsters or mentally ill
  • If there was no physical force or violence used it can’t have been rape
  • The man was drunk/ on drugs/ depressed/ under stress/ wasn't himself
  • Men who rape are sexually frustrated/ do not have the opportunity to have sex with a willing partner
  • If you are in an intimate relationship or married it can’t be rape.

What is consent?

A person consents if he/she agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice (Section 74 Sexual Offences Act 2003 – in force since May 2004)

Freedom means that you have not been coerced or forced to make the choice to have sex and capacity means that you have the mental and physical ability to say yes.

  • A child under the age of 13 cannot by law be deemed to consent to sexual activity
  • Sex with any girl/boy under 16 is unlawful, including oral and anal. It doesn’t make any difference if permission is given or not, if you’re under 16 sex is illegal
  • Consent may be withdrawn at any time
  • If you are too drunk or too high to give consent it is rape
  • If you do not get consent it’s rape

Legal proof of consent - POWER:

  • Physical disability: complainant could not communicate consent
  • Overpowered: complainant was given a substance that prevents the ability to consent
  • Wake up: the complainant was asleep or unconscious
  • Entrapment: the complainant was unlawfully detained
  • Ready violence: at a time or immediately before a person used violence or caused the complainant to fear that immediate violence would be used.

If any of these are proved by the prosecution to be present at the time of the assault then a defendant will need to plead guilty.

Sexual violence: support services

If you are in immediate risk call 999 or 112 (from a mobile) for the Police

Local Support Services

Solace Women’s Aid: 07340 683382

Haven the Survivors of Abuse Network: 020 8520 0755

Stay Safe East: 020 519 7241 or text 07587 134 122

East London Rape Crisis: 020 7683 1210
(Monday, Friday and Saturday 10am to 12pm and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 6pm to 8pm)

National/London Support Services

The Haven Whitechapel: 020 7247 4787

The Haven provides forensic examinations and support to victims of sexual violence

Visit the Havens website

Rights of Women (Legal Advice Helpline)

Telephone: 020 7251 8887 (Criminal Law)
Telephone: 020 7251 6577 (Family Law)
Telephone: 020 7490 7680 (Immigration and Asylum Law)

Rape Crisis Helpline: 808 802 9999

Visit the Rape crisis website

For more information view our help after rape and sexual assault webpage.