Information on Sexual violence
Sexual violence comes in many forms but one thing is common – the survivor is never to blame. If you need to talk to someone in confidence about sexual abuse, we are here for you.
Approximately 85,000 women (aged 16 – 59) experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault by penetration in England and Wales alone every year
Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence report to the police
Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence
There are many forms of sexual violence
They can include child sexual abuse, rape, assault, harassment, exploitation through pornography and/or sex work, flashing and female genital mutilation (FGM). Sexual violence can be committed by a stranger, partner, friend, acquaintance or relative, but is never, ever justified.
There are lots of myths
There are lots of myths surrounding rape and they silence survivors by placing the blame on the woman rather than the abuser.
Click each MYTH to reveal the FACT.
Women are most likely to be raped outside, in dark alleyways late at night by a stranger.
Only 9% of rapes are committed by 'strangers'. Women are raped in their homes and in their work places where they are less likely to be believed and even less likely to report. More than 80% of rapes are committed by known men.
Everyone knows when a woman says no, she often means yes. Women secretly want to be raped.
Rape is a terrifying, violent and humiliating experience that no woman wants or asks for. A person has the right to change their mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact. If a sexual partner does not stop at the time a person says no, this is sexual assault. If a person is in a relationship with someone or has had sex with a person before, this does not mean that they cannot be assaulted by that person. Consent must be given every time two people engage in sexual contact. Sex without consent is rape.
She was asking for it, look at what she was wearing.
Women and girls of all ages, classes, culture, ability, sexuality, race and faith are raped. Attractiveness has little significance. Reports show that there is a great diversity in the way targeted women act or dress.
She was drunk and took drugs, what did she expect.
If a person is unconscious or their judgement is impaired by alcohol or drugs, legally they are unable to give consent. Having non-consensual sex with a person who is intoxicated is sexual assault.
The woman did not get hurt or fight back. It could not have been rape.
Men who rape or sexually assault women and girls will often use threats and intimidation. The fact that there is no visible evidence of violence does not mean that a woman has not been raped. Faced with the reality of rape, women make second by second decisions, all of which are directed at minimising the harm done to them.
Men of certain races and backgrounds are more likely to commit sexual violence.
There is no typical rapist. Studies show that men who commit sexual violence come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age and social group. 85% of rapists are men known to their victims.
Once a man is sexually aroused he cannot help himself. He has to have sex.
Studies show that most rapes are premeditated. Men can quite easily control their urges to have sex - they do not need to rape a woman to satisfy them. Rape is an act of violence - not sexual gratification. Men who rape or sexually assault does so to dominate, violate and control.
Women make up stories about being raped.
Reporting to the Police can be a difficult decision. There are many myths that underlie the belief that women make false allegations of rape against innocent men. Studies show however, that the allegations of rape that are false are exactly the same as that of any other crime i.e. 6-8%.
All about consent
You have probably heard the term ‘consent’.
There can often be confusion and misunderstanding about what ‘counts’ as consent.
Here are some things we should all know about consent;
Sexual violence is any sexual activity that takes place without someone’s consent.
If someone consents to sex, it means they agree by choice, and also that they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
We all have the right to not agree to any type of sexual activity. We also have the right to change our minds at any time or consent to doing one sexual thing with one person but not someone else.
If someone says “no” to any type of sexual activity, they do not consent.
But what if someone doesn’t say “no” out loud?
Does that mean that they have consented to sex?
- No. Just because someone hasn’t said “no” this does not mean automatic consent.
- If someone seems unsure, stays quiet, moves away or doesn’t respond – this is not consent. Many people who have experienced sexual violence find that they were unable to move or speak – this is a common reaction.
This means that…
- If someone is asleep, unconscious, drunk or drugged, they cannot consent to sexual activity.
- If someone is threatened, bullied, pressured or manipulated into saying yes, this is not consent.
- If someone’s not sure whether you are giving your consent for something sexual, they should check with you.
- If they can see or suspect you’re not 100% comfortable or happy with what’s happening between you, they should stop.
Here are some examples of what consent does and does not look like in real life situations.
Consent looks like:
Respecting someone’s choice if they say “no” – never trying to change their mind or put pressure on them
Checking in with your partner – “Is this OK? Do you want to slow down? Do you want to stop?”
Talking to your partner about what you do and don’t want, and listening to them in return
Enthusiastically saying “yes!”
Consent does not look like:
Someone removing a condom during sex, when you have only agreed to sex when using one
Someone assuming that because you have had sex with them before, you want to have sex again
Someone assuming that you want to have sex because of your actions or what you are wearing (for example, flirting, accepting a drink, wearing a short skirt)
Someone carrying on with sexual activity despite your non-verbal cues – for example, if you pull away, freeze, or seem uncomfortable
Someone having sex with you when you are asleep or unconscious
Feeling like you have to agree to sex because you’re worried about your partner’s reaction if you say “no”
If you think you might have been raped or experienced sexual violence, you can talk to us.
We will listen and believe you, and you can take the conversation at your own pace.
You can learn more about our RSACC services here
You can read more about consent here LINK?
What should I do if I witness sexual harassment, abuse or violence?
The following is adapted from advice by Julia Gray of anti-harassment campaign group, Hollaback London.
If you are in a situation where you are witnessing sexual abuse, there are things you can do to support the victim, if is it safe to do so. It is important to assess whether intervening could cause yourself or the victim harm or trauma but it can also be a powerful show of support.
What should I do if I hear someone make a joke about rape?
If it’s safe to do so, approach the speaker with gentle curiosity, encouraging them to think about their words in a different way. For instance, asking them to explain what they meant by it or whether they would still make the joke if they knew someone who had experienced rape was within earshot?
What if I’m out and I see someone grope someone else?
If you’re able to, approach the victim and check if they’re okay. You could pretend to know them to deter the perpetrator. You could explain that you saw what happened and if you’re in a public venue you could offer to tell the manager or stay with them whilst they leave the venue or until the other person has left.
What should I do if I see someone being assaulted or attacked?
As with any other type of violent crime, if someone witnesses a physical assault, they should call the police.
If you see someone being catcalled and harassed in the street or continually receiving unwanted advances?
You don’t want to do anything to exacerbate the situation but you could, for example, offer to wait with someone at the bus stop, call them a cab, or call the police. Providing affirmation that it’s not okay and you’re on the victim’s side is a powerful way to support them and help them to recover.
How can I support a survivor?
The following is adapted from advice from RAINN.
It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially if they are a friend or family member. For a survivor, disclosing to someone they care about can be very difficult, so we encourage you to be as supportive and non-judgemental as possible.
You could let them know that you believe them and that there are support services like RSACC that are there for them if they’d like to access them. If they use our online chat or helpline, they don’t have to provide their name or specific details, we will support them at their pace. But often listening is the best way to support a survivor.
Here are some phrases which could be helpful:
“I believe you. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. No matter how they are acting, the best thing you can do is to believe them.
“It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
“You are not alone. I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Find out if there are people in their life they feel comfortable going to, and remind them that there are expert and friendly support services like RSACC who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.
“I’m sorry this happened. This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.