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Rape and sexual assault

This advice applies to England

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

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

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

Both rape and sexual assault are criminal offences that can be committed by both men and women.

Reporting rape or sexual assault 

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).

If you're not ready to talk to the police

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 get advice,  make a statement, have forensic samples taken, get medical support (including tests for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy) without having to report the matter to the police.

The forensic evidence is stored at the SARC in case you want to report the rape to the police in the future.

If you want to go to a SARC, you should try to go as soon as you can so important evidence can be preserved. 

You can also get help from an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) who can provide specialist advice and support.

You can find an ISVAs by speaking to your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre, or Rape Crisis Centre.

You can get more help from a Rape Crisis Center. They 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 also 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.

Further information and help

The charity Rights of Women publish free information on areas of sexual violence law to support women through the criminal justice process. 

You can also get help from one of many charities who provide help and advice to people who have experienced violence and abuse

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