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Sexual violence is the general term used to describe any kind of unwanted sexual act or activity. It includes sexual assault, rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
Sexual violence is the general term used to describe any kind of unwanted sexual act or activity. This can include:
You are not to blame
If you have experienced sexual violence, whether it was recently or many years ago, you could be feeling a range of emotions such as anger, shock, fear or depression. You might feel many things at once, or you may be in shock and feel numb. Whatever you are feeling, you are not to blame and you are not alone.
Both rape and sexual assault are crimes which involve someone being forced into sexual activity without their consent. People often say sexual assault when talking about rape, which can be confusing, but they are seen as different things in the eyes of the law.
Rape is the penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus with a penis without consent. Anyone can be a victim of rape, but it can only be committed by someone with a penis. Penetration (without consent) with an object or another part of the body is called “sexual assault by penetration” and can be committed by anyone.
Other forms of sexual assault can include:
Sexual assault doesn’t always cause physical injury or leave visible marks. However, it can cause severe distress, emotional harm and injuries which can’t be seen and take a long time to recover from.
Experiencing sexual violence of any type can have physical, emotional and psychological effects. These can be difficult to deal with, but there are lots of places you can get help and support.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are passed through vaginal, anal and oral (mouth) sexual contact. If you have experienced sexual violence you should arrange to be tested for STIs as soon as possible. This is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
If you think you could be pregnant as a result of rape, there are a number of places you can be tested for pregnancy, discuss your options and seek support.
There are different types of emergency contraception you can take to prevent pregnancy, some of these can be taken up to 5 days after the incident.
If you are pregnant and you don’t want to continue the pregnancy you can find out where to seek help here.
There are many emotional and psychological reactions that victims sexual violence can experience. Some common reactions are:
You can find out more about these and many others on Mind’s mental health A-Z , which includes sources of help and support.
Rape Crisis also have a number of tools and resources to help you understand and cope with the effects of sexual violence.
Am I just overreacting?
After sexual violence, it’s common to think you shouldn’t feel upset about what’s happened, you’re just overreacting or kicking up a fuss, or that it was somehow your fault. None of these are true and your feelings are valid. Remember: you never asked for this to happen. You didn’t ‘deserve’ it, but you do deserve whatever support you need to cope and move forward.
Sometimes sexual violence happens within relationships and can be part of an ongoing pattern of domestic abuse or violence. Find out more about abuse in relationships.
Being in a relationship does not equal consent
You always have a right to say no to any form of sex or sexual activity – and/or to withdraw your consent – at any time. A relationship or marriage is not an entitlement to have sex. Sexual assault is sexual assault whether or not it is within a marriage or relationship. Rape is rape whether or not it is within a marriage or relationship.
Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Whatever has happened, there are places and people who can support you – you are not on your own.
Free and confidential support to help you move beyond crime.
Specialist support for women, men and children who have survived sexual violence.
Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support.
Free, confidential help for under 25s via online, social and mobile.
Specialist LGBT+ anti-violence charity providing advice, support and advocacy to people sexual violence and other crimes.
A network of independent Rape Crisis Centres providing specialist support and services for victims and survivors of sexual violence.
100% FREE & CONFIDENTIAL