Please note that the following article contains graphic descriptions of what it considered rape and sexual assault, which may be upsetting or traumatising. If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault and are looking for support please view the support tab.  

Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual act or activity, including rape and sexual assault

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. 

Anyone, of any gender or sexual orientation, can be subjected to sexual violence. 

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'Rape' - is when a person penetrates someone’s vagina, anus or mouth without their consent, or if they were not able to consent. Any person of any gender can be a victim of rape.

'Attempted rape' - is when a person tries to rape someone but does not manage to 

‘Assault with intent to rape’ - is when a person intends to rape someone and assaults them but their conduct does not amount to a charge of attempted rape. 

‘Sexual assault by penetration’ - is when the attacker sexually penetrates the vagina or anus of the victim without their consent. The penetration could involve a part of the attacker’s body (for example a finger) or an object (for example a bottle or a vibrator). 

The attacker might also use their penis. There is an overlap between the offences of ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault by penetration’. This is to cover cases where the victim is not sure if they were penetrated by a penis, for example, because they were blindfolded at the time. 

Sexual assault’ makes it a crime for the attacker to do any of the following without the victim’s consent and any reasonable belief that they consented: 

  • Sexually penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth
  • Sexually touch the victim
  • Engage in any other form of sexual activity which results in physical contact with the victim, directly, through clothing, with a part of the body or an object
  • Ejaculate semen onto the victim or urinate or emit saliva onto the victim sexually

There are various other offences with which someone might be charged including:
  • Sexual coercion (intended mainly to cover situations where someone forces someone to have sex with another person)
  • Offences concerning unlawful sexual activity with children under 16
  • Sexual abuse of trust involving children: any sexual activity by someone over 18 with someone under 18 to whom the attacker is in a position of trust, for example a carer
  • Sexual abuse of trust involving mentally disordered persons: any sexual activity with someone who suffers from a mental disorder and to whom the attacker is in a position of trust
  • Administering a substance (giving someone alcohol or drugs) for sexual purposes
  • Incest: sexual intercourse between people related to one another (as specified by law)
  • Communicating indecently
  • Sexual exposure
  • Voyeurism


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