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Rape and sexual assault

Find out where you can get help if you've been raped or suffered another type of sexual assault.

What is rape?

Rape is a criminal offence.

Rape is defined as non-consensual penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth.

Non consensual means that you didn't freely agree to have sexual intercourse. 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

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a criminal offence and can be committed by both men and women.

Sexual assault happens when someone intentionally touches you without your consent.

Reporting rape or sexual assault to the police

It may be a difficult decision for you to report the matter to the police and you may wish to get specialist advice before making a decision.

Check with your local police station to see if they have a specialist worker. Ask to speak to a specially trained Sexual Offences Liaison Officer (SOLO or SOIT).

Getting specialist help

If you are unsure about what you want to do, you can go to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). At the SARC, you can make a statement, have forensic samples taken, receive medical support (including tests for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy) and advice without having to report the matter to the police. The forensic evidence is stored at the SARC as you may wish to report the rape to the police at a later date. You should get help from a SARC as soon as possible after the assault so that important evidence can be preserved. You can refer yourself to a SARC.

You can also get help from an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) who can provide specialist advice and support. ISVAs may be based in local Sexual Assault Referral Centres, Rape Crisis organisations or police stations.

Rape Crisis Centres provide a safe and confidential environment for women and girls who are survivors of rape, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment or any form of sexual violence. Some Rape Crisis Centres provide support services for men and boys who have experienced sexual violence as a child or as an adult. Some can also offer support to male partners, friends and supporters of sexual violence survivors. You can call their helpline on 0808 802 9999 for details of a local centre.

You can also search by postcode to find details of your local Sexual Violence services and SARC's at www.nhs.uk.

Further information on rape

You can get further information about rape and sexual assault from the Rape Crisis website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk.

The Rights of Women publish a range of free information on areas of sexual violence law to support women through the criminal justice process including a detailed booklet From Report to Court - A handbook for adult survivors of sexual violence which is available on their website at www.rightsofwomen.org.uk.

Next steps

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