Sexual violence

What is sexual violence?

Also known as sexual abuse, sexual violence is any unwanted sexual act or activity (including online) or that involved one or more of the following:

  • Pressure
  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation
  • Bullying
  • Threats
  • Deception
  • Force

In other words, any kinds of sexual act or activity that took place without consent.

It’s not a well-known term and so many people aren’t sure what it means or if what happened to them ‘counts’ as sexual violence.

There are many different kinds of sexual violence including (but not restricted to):

  • Rape (including within marriage/relationships and ‘stealthing’)
  • Sexual assault
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Sexual harassment
  • Forced marriage
  • So-called honour-based violence
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • Trafficking
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Ritual abuse
  • Assault by penetration
  • Indecent exposure (‘flashing’ or ‘cyber flashing’)

Just because something isn’t included here doesn’t mean it isn’t sexual violence. Remember: if there’s no consent, it’s sexual violence.

Not sure what happened to you?

It’s okay if you’re not sure how to name it, if you don’t fully remember or if you aren’t sure how you feel about it. If something sexual happened to you without your consent, didn’t feel good or feel ‘right’ then we are here for you.

We will always listen to and believe you. If you want to talk, our emotional support services – helpline, email support and live chat – are available to talk things through with you.

What is consent?

Consent means agreeing to something by choice and having both the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

It’s NOT consent if:

  • Someone was asleep, unconscious, drunk, drugged or has taken drugs
  • Someone was pressured, manipulated, tricked or scared into saying yes.
  • Someone was too young or vulnerable to have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

Consent can be withdrawn at any time, including during a sexual act. Just because someone consented to something before, doesn’t mean they consented to it happening again.

Who is affected by sexual violence?

Anyone can be subjected to sexual violence.

It happens to people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures, sexualities, faiths and ethnicities. This includes children, older people, LGBTQIA+ people and disabled people.

Research shows that the vast majority of survivors of sexual violence are women and girls, and the majority of perpetrators are men.

Both the United Nations and the British Government recognise sexual violence as a gender-based crime, as a form of violence against women and girls. That is not to say that sexual violence is not perpetuated against men and boys, because it is, but it disproportionately impacts the lives of women and girls and, as such, is a cause and consequence of gender inequality.

Getting support

Everyone responds differently to sexual violence. There is no right or wrong way to respond, whatever you feel is valid, but for a lot of women and girls it can have a long-lasting impact on their well-being.

If you have been subjected to any form of sexual violence, no matter when it occurred, we our support services are available to you: