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Sexual Violence is any unwanted sexual act or activity.  There are many different kinds of sexual violence that exist on a continuum including, but not limited to rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse (CSA), sexual harassment, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and ritual abuse. Sexual violence can be perpetrated by a stranger or by someone known and even trusted, including a friend, colleague, family member, partner or ex-partner. Sexual violence can happen to anyone. No-one ever deserves or asks for it to happen. 

Everyone has the right to say 'no' to sex, to withdraw or withhold their consent for any sexual act, on any occasion and under any circumstances, regardless of whether they've given consent to sex with that person in the past and regardless of whether they're in a relationship with the other person.

Rape and sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. It is 100% the responsibility of the perpetrator and it is only and always with the perpetrator that blame and guilt should lie.   

In the UK, rape is legally defined as the penetration with a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent. Penetration of another person's vagina, mouth or anus with any part of the body other than the penis or any object without their consent, is classed as sexual assault by penetration.  It can carry the same sentences as rape.

Sexual or indecent assault is defined as an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, inflicted upon someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.

You won't have consented if at the time:

  • you were under the age of 13
  • you were subjected to violence or threats of violence
  • violence or threats of violence were made against someone else to force you to consent
  • you were asleep, unconscious, drugged or incapacitated by alcohol
  • your disability meant you were not able to communicate your lack of consent 

This video provides a simple explanation of consent.

Both rape and sexual assault are criminal offences that can be committed by both men and women. For more information about sexual violence and the law, Rights of Women have created a number of fact sheets

If you think you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted there are a variety of support options available. You have the right to choose what happens next.

What support is available for incidents of sexual violence?


There are two ways you can tell us what happened