For Survivors.

Child sexual abuse involves:

  • sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed, including using an object
  • assault by penetration, including rape or penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body
  • encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity, including sexual acts with someone else or making a child strip or masturbate
  • intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child
  • not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others
  • meeting a child following sexual grooming, with the intent of abusing them
  • taking, making, allowing someone to take, distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children
  • paying for the sexual services of a child
  • encouraging a child into prostitution or pornography
  • showing a child images of sexual activity, including photographs, videos or via webcams.

If you are a young person or child who is currently being abused you can call Child Line 0800 1111 for support.

Child Abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn’t have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.

Childhood sexual abuse can impact different people in different ways you may suffer panic attacks, phobias and/or flashbacks; anger and shame and/or feel worthless and you may develop depression or anxiety. Remembering only parts of what happened or remembering it in vivid detail, blaming yourself for what happened and being confused about your childhood relationships are all common responses to childhood sexual abuse.

It is important to understand that however you have been affected and whatever your feelings about the abuse, it is OK to feel whatever you do – your feelings are individual and normal.
It is also important to believe that it is never the fault of the child when they have been abused – the blame and guilt always lie with the abuser.
If you have experienced childhood sexual abuse and would like support please call our helpline or email us to talk to someone.

If you are under 18 or you are telling us about a child who is being abused and you give us your name and address we may have to break your confidentiality and get some advice from other organisations who can help stop the abuse.

Have I Been Raped?

Many of the women who call us ask “was it rape?”, below are some legal definitions of a few offences which are classed as sexual violence. There are many more than the ones listed here.

Legal Definitions

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines rape as ‘the penetration with a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent’.
The Act describes 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, as ‘sexual assault by penetration’, which can carry the same sentences as rape.
The overall definition of sexual or indecent assault is 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’.
When encourage our clients to use the language that they find most meaningful and representative and we do not use legal terminology or definitions.
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. Sex without consent is rape.

For legal advice for women go to:

More information about the legal definitions of sexual violence can be found here: Sexual Offences Act 2003 


Drug/Alcohol Rape

Regardless of whether drugs, including alcohol, have been administered to someone without their knowledge or consent or whether they have willingly consumed alcohol or drugs, 100% of the responsibility for any act of sexual violence lies with its perpetrator.  There is no excuse for sexual violence; it can never be justified, it can never be explained away and there is no context in which it is valid, understandable or acceptable.

If someone is incapacitated through the (willing or unknown) consumption of drugs or alcohol, they are unable to consent to sexual activity and sexual activity with them is therefore a crime.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is the touching of someone, in a sexual way, without their consent. This used to be called indecent assault.

Causing a person to engage in sexual activity

Is when someone forces or manipulates a person to witness or participate in any sexual acts, such as masturbation, or watching or acting out pornography.


Controlling behaviour is: acting in a way to make a person feel inferior and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support (e.g. friends and family) and taking away their independence, freedom, and control of their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate with partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

Abused people are not weak, submissive victims.  It takes huge strength to live with an abusive partner.  To survive in that situation you have to be strong and resourceful, adopting all kinds of coping strategies to survive each day.

If you have experienced domestic violence and would like support there are people who can help:

24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline

0808 2000 247



0117 961 2999


Women’s Aid



Male Survivors

Unfortunately we are currently unable to offer services to male survivors of rape and/or sexual abuse.

Please find below some links to services available to men.

Survivors UK

Are you worried that someone might find out you have visited this site? Please read the information below which is designed to help you ‘cover your tracks’ or hide evidence that you have visited our website.

Your Computers History and Cache

A cache is a file that automatically saves web pages and graphics.  If an abuser knows how to read your computer’s history or cache file, they may be able to see information you have viewed recently on the internet.  You can clear your history or empty your cache file in your browser’s settings.

Click here for details of how to get rid of these for each type of browser.

Cover Your Tracks

Leaving the site quickly

Need to click away quickly? The ‘leave this page quickly’ button in the bottom right hand corner of every page will take you directly to the BBC website.

Alternatively, there is a shortcut on your keyboard which will close down your computer instantly:

Windows – ALT key and F4
Apple Macintosh – Apple Key and W


Make sure you choose a password that is not easy to guess. Always make sure you log out of your email before leaving the computer.

If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing e-mail messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse.

Recently Attacked: what should I do?

Firstly, you must look after yourself:

Are you in a safe place? Can you go to a place where you will be safe?

Are you injured? Do you need emergency help?

If you are alone, could you contact someone to come and be with you?

If you are injured

If you have been injured, you may need to be treated by your doctor or a hospital.  If you are badly injured you may need to call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

If you are not seriously injured and there is any chance that you might want your forensic evidence to be preserved, you can contact the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)    for advice as there are optimum timescales for having a forensic medical with them.

If you are worried about pregnancy

If there is a possibility you may be pregnant you can take the morning after pill up to 72 hours after, or if you have the coil fitted, up to five days after.  You can get the morning after pill from a chemist, your doctor, a genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic, family planning clinic from the SARC if you have a medical with them.

If you are worried about sexually transmitted infections

If you are worried that you might be at risk from a transmitted infections, you can have fully confidential advice and treatment from your nearest GUM clinic


Thinking of reporting to the police?

The decision to report can be a big one.  For some people it will be really important to them and for others it may not be a step they want to take now or ever.  What is most important is that you make the decision that is best for you.

If you want to report there is information and support out there for you…

If you would like to know about what happens when you report go to our Police Procedures page.

If you would like to talk to someone about reporting you can talk to an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) who will be able to help.  You can find out more about them here

For more in-depth information on the report to court support you can read the Rights of Women
“From Report to Court:  A handbook for adult survivors of sexual violence here: Rights of Women Handbook



To consent to sexual activity means to give permission for a sexual act to happen because you want it to happen.

Gaining consent from a person before engaging in any sexual activity with them is mandatory. If they engage in sexual activity without consent this is sexual assault or rape, depending on the activity.

Being pressured or forced to have sex when you don’t want to is a crime.

No one is ever obliged to have any kind of sex with someone, even with a partner or someone they’re married to, or someone they’ve had sex with once before or a hundred times before. Consent can never be assumed.  Sex is never owed to anyone.

Consent must be given:

  • by both/all partners
  • freely
  • enthusiastically
  • every time and for every sexual act.

Remember – consent can be confirmed by:

  • Asking
  • Looking at body language
  • Being aware, prepared, and willing to stop at any time
  • Being respectful and accepting if your partner says ‘no’


How do you give/get consent for a sexual act?

  • Verbally – by the asking and answering of questions i.e. ‘Is it okay if I touch you here?’, ‘Can I go down on you?’ or ‘Do you want to have sex?’
  • Non verbally – by active and enthusiastic participation

In law, consent can be withdrawn at any time, even if the sexual act is in progress.

Just because a person has consented to some things, does not mean they have consented to others.  For example, they may feel comfortable with kissing or touching each other but this does not mean you consent to oral sex or penetrative sex.

The law says that consent is something active. It means freely choosing to say ‘yes’.

If there is no agreement, there is no consent – no consent is a crime.  If one party is:

  • asleep
  • coerced
  • drugged
  • drunk
  • frightened
  • mentally ill
  • of low mental age vs chronological age
  • threatened
  • under the age of 16
  • unwell or otherwise incapacitatedthen consent cannot be given freely.

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