You can call Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) whatever you have experienced, and you do not need to be involved with the police or criminal justice system.
Many of the women who call us often 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 below.
Since the Sexual Offences Act 2003 came into force on 1st May 2004, rape has legally been defined in the UK 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.
Through our experience of supporting survivors we know that for some survivors, for example for those who’ve experienced sexual violence that involved penetration by something other than a penis, these legal definitions can feel restrictive and as if their experience is not considered as serious. When we work with survivors, we are led by them, encourage them to name and frame their own experiences, and use the language that they find most meaningful and representative, rather than strict legal terminology.
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.
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 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 forcing or manipulates a person to witness or participate in any sexual acts, such as masturbation, or watching or acting out pornography.
For legal advice for women go to: www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/adviceline.php
More information about the legal definitions of sexual violence can be found here: Sexual Offences Act 2003