Sexual violence is the general term we use to describe any kind of unwanted sexual act or activity, including rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and many others.   Sexual violence can be perpetrated by a stranger or by someone known and even trusted, including a friend, colleague, family member, partner or ex-partner. Sexual violence can happen to anyone. No-one ever deserves or asks for it to happen.

Everyone has the right to say 'no' to sex, to withdraw or withhold their consent for any sexual act, on any occasion and under any circumstances, regardless of whether they've given consent to sex with that person in the past and regardless of whether they're in a relationship with the other person.
What is consent?
In law, sexual consent is when we agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. You would not have been able to consent if:
  • 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 
This video provides a simple explanation of consent. 

In the UK, The legal definition of rape is 'penetration with a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent'.  Penetration of another person's vagina, mouth or anus with any part of the body other than the penis or any object without their consent, is classed as sexual assault by penetration.  It can carry the same sentences as rape.

Sexual or indecent assault is defined as an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, inflicted upon someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.

Rape and sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. It is 100% the responsibility of the perpetrator and it is only and always with the perpetrator that blame and guilt should lie.

Sexual harassment is defined as when someone carries out unwanted sexual behaviour towards another person that makes them feel upset, scared, offended or humiliated. Harassment can also include stalking. This is when someones behaviour is deemed to be unwanted and persistant, targetted towards an individual, causing them distress and concern. This can also take the form of 'cyber stalking'. 

The University defines sexual misconduct as: 
  • Engaging or attempting to engage in sexual intercourse or a sexual act where consent is not or cannot be given 
  • Sharing another person's private sexual materials without their consent 
  • Kissing/inappropriately touching without consent 
  • Inappropriately showing sexual organs to another person
  • Making unwanted remarks, sounds or gestures of a sexual nature 
Any form of sexual misconduct, assault, violence or harassment is never okay.
If you think you have been the target of sexual misconduct, assault or harassment, it may be hard to know what to do or how to feel. What happened was not your fault and what you do next is your choice.

If you are supporting someone who you think has been the target of sexual misconduct, assault or harassment, here is some information on how you can support them. 

There are two ways you can tell us what happened