Sexual Assault

A sexual assault is any act where someone:

  • touches a person sexually without their consent
  • penetrates a person sexually without their consent using part of their body or an other object
  • ejaculates onto a person without consent
  • urinates or spits on a person sexually without consent
  • Engages in any other form of sexual activity without consent

Sexual coercion

Sexual coercion is where someone forces another person, for example by threatening them, to take part in sexual activities, look at sexual images or to be present while sexual acts are going on.


Rape is when “sex” takes place without consent. It can happen to women or men and can involve being forced to have sex through violence or through verbal threats, however it can also include circumstances in which no force was used (for example the victim was asleep or unconscious).

It does not matter whether the two people concerned know each other or not or whether they happen to be in a relationship or married.

Date Rape

Date rape is a term often used to refer to a rape that takes place between two people who know each other or who meet willingly at first. Sometimes alcohol or other drugs are involved. If a person is unable to give their consent at the time because they are drunk or drugged and later feels they had sex when they would not have wanted to, then the law says a rape has taken place. As far as the law is concerned, the penalties are the same as for any other kind of rape.

Consent can be withdrawn before or during any sexual activity.

What to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted:

  • Get somewhere safe
  • Call someone who can help you: a friend, the police (999), or support organisations
  • If you get help immediately after the assault, try not to wash or change your clothes. This may destroy forensic evidence that could be important if you decide to report the assault to the police
  • Seek medical help

Support Organisations

Information about the NHS Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS)

If you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted, it’s understandable if you don’t know what to do or where to turn. SARCS is a dedicated NHS service which can offer healthcare and support in the days after an assault, if you are not ready to tell the police or are unsure.

What options are available?

Police report

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can report it to the police at any time, in an emergency situation dial 999, non-emergencies dial 101,

Self-referral to a SARCS

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted within the last 7 days and do not want to tell the police or are unsure about telling them now – you can self-refer to a SARCS. This means you don’t need a GP or other healthcare professional to refer you to a SARCS – you can do this yourself.

You can phone a dedicated NHS telephone number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and speak to a specially trained healthcare professional who can help to arrange the care you might need.

You can find more information about how to self-refer to a SARCS and the telephone number to call, on the NHS Inform website

Remember…You Are Not to Blame… Even If:

  • Your attacker was an acquaintance, date, friend or partner
  • You have been sexually intimate with that person or with others before
  • You were drinking or using drugs
  • You froze and did not or could not say “no,” or were unable to fight back physically

Historical Sexual Abuse

If you have experienced historical sexual abuse, you can contact:

You can get further support from the organisations listed here.