Rape and sexual assault

What is rape and sexual assault?

A rape is when a person uses their penis without consent to penetrate the vagina, mouth, or anus of another person. Legally, a person without a penis cannot commit rape according to the Crown Prosecution Service definition, but a female may be guilty of rape if they assist a male perpetrator in an attack.

Sexual assault is when a person is coerced or physically forced to engage in sexual activity against their will, or when a person, male or female, touches another person sexually without their consent. Touching can be done with any part of the body or with an object. Sexual penetration is when a person (male or female) penetrates the vagina or anus of another person with any part of their body or an object without that person’s consent.

Female sat near window looking out

How should I feel after experiencing a sexual crime?

There’s no right or wrong way to feel after experiencing sexual crime. Your feelings will depend entirely on the situation and the type of incident. Common reactions might include:

  • feeling scared or anxious;
  • not wanting to go out in public;
  • feeling sick or unwell;
  • numb or feeling detached from the event;
  • difficulty sleeping; and
  • avoiding places and people you associate with the incident.

What should I do if I’ve been sexually assaulted, harassed or raped?

We know that this is a really difficult subject to talk about, but if you feel able to, you should contact the police. However, the most important thing is to get the support you need and you can contact us whether or not you wish to involve the police and regardless of how long ago it happened.

Your GP can also help with any physical health concerns you may have, as well as the Sexual Assessment Referral Centre, who can gather forensic evidence for you and store it in case you change your mind and want to make a police report in the future.