Sexual Assault & Rape

Sexual assault is when someone touches you in a way that is inappropriate and against your wishes
A young man sits in silhouette at the end of a tunnel

Rape and other forms of sexual assault are not only serious crimes, they also cause extreme distress to the victims involved. Sexual assault and rape can happen to people of any age, any gender, and any background. Know your rights if you’re attacked, and where and how to get help.

What is rape?

At its simplest, rape means being forced to have sex against your will – vaginally, rectally or orally. This means that men as well as women can be victims, though most rapes occur against females. If you are under 18 and are raped, this might be called child abuse.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is when someone touches you in a way that is inappropriate and against your wishes. The touching will be sexual in nature and so will any other accompanying behaviour, such as what the person says to you.

Who are the attackers?

Sometimes, rapists and assaulters are not known to their victims. However, in most cases, they know their victim and could be friends or family members, or a boyfriend or girlfriend in a new or long-term relationship.

Date rape

You may have heard of something called ‘drug rape’ or ‘date rape’. These refer to when a person is given a drink spiked with a drug that makes them unaware of what’s happening to them, and can often cause memory loss afterwards. To avoid this, don’t accept drinks from strangers and never leave your drink unattended – even if you’re going to the loo (unless you leave it with a friend).

Reporting it

Whether or not to report the offence can be a difficult decision.

  • If you decide to report the attack, go to the nearest police station – take a friend or family member if you want to for support.
  • The police have a better chance of collecting evidence if you do not wash (shower or have a bath) or change your clothes, but take some clean clothes with you for later.
  • You will probably be examined by a police surgeon so they can collect evidence for use in court. They will be sensitive and kind and will make the procedure as comfortable for you as possible.
  • Even if there is no proof of penetration, the offender can still be charged with either sexual assault or attempted rape.

If you decide not to make a report, you should still see your Sexual Health Clinic or GP to check for Sexually Transmitted Infections, pregnancy and injuries. These services are confidential and non-judgemental.

How you may be feeling

If someone has been raped or sexually assaulted they may be going through different emotions. They may feel:

  • ashamed – that they were raped or assaulted
  • guilty – they might even think it was their fault
  • angry – with themselves, even though they are not to blame, and angry with the abuser
  • frightened – that it might happen again or that they will be punished for reporting it to the authorities.

There are workers, including specialist police officers, counsellors and different support organisations, to help people work through these feelings.

For more help and advice go to the links below:

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