Rape and sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes. Both men and women can be affected, and in many cases the victim will already know their attacker.

Having sex with, or sexually touching someone who hasn't consented is an offence. The maximum sentence a judge can impose is life imprisonment, and the individual will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

Rape and sexual assault are never the victim's fault. The responsibility rests solely with the perpetrator.

Rape

Rape is when a person has sexual intercourse with another person and the victim does not or cannot consent.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is when a person intentionally touches another person in a sexual way and the victim does not or cannot consent.

Sexual consent

Sexual consent is when a person has the ability and freedom to agree to sexual activity.

Knowing someone, being drunk or on drugs, or having been intimate with them before does not automatically mean they consent and it is not an excuse. 

A person must be able to make their own decisions and have the mental capacity to give consent. Having capacity means the person can make a decision, understand the consequences and knows that they have a choice. If they cannot do this they cannot give consent. 

You should keep in mind that: 

  • being friendly, flirting, kissing or being intimate does not equal consent
  • consenting in the past does not mean consent is automatically given in the future
  • being married or in a relationship does not mean automatic consent
  • silence, or not saying “no” does not mean somebody is consenting
  • someone who is asleep, unconscious or drunk is not capable of giving their consent 

Partners have the right to withdraw their consent at any time. Once consent is withdrawn sexual activity must stop immediately. By continuing you will be committing an offence. 

Report it

Rape and sexual assault can be a difficult crime for victims to report. There are many different reasons why people may not feel comfortable talking to the police about what has happened to them. Victims may feel embarrassed or ashamed, they might want to forget that it has happened, or find the thought of going to court too upsetting.

If you don’t feel comfortable reporting an incident to the police, you can contact any of the support organisations listed below for help and advice. 

Further advice and support

Victim Support - Support for victims of rape and sexual assault.

Rape Crisis - Help and support for women and girls affected by rape or sexual assault.

SurvivorsUK - Support for male victims of sexual violation.

ManKind - Specialist advice and counselling for men affected by sexual violence.

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