This week is Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. More than 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced rape or sexual assault as adults. This means there are nearly 5 million women in England and Wales who have experienced at least one of these offences in adulthood alone.

1 in 20 children in the UK (as a whole) have experienced sexual abuse involving physical contact. That is at least 1 child in every classroom.

Sexual Violence is a term used to describe any sexual activity or act that happened without consent. It is any kind of sexual activity or act (including online) that is unwanted or involves one or more of the following:-

  1. Pressure
  2. Manipulation
  3. Bullying
  4. Intimidation
  5. Threats
  6. Force

Sexual violence can happen to anyone at any stage of their lives. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people experience sexual violence in the UK alone. Sexual violence is not always perpetrated by a stranger it can be by someone the victim knows and trusts i.e. a friend, family member, partner, ex-partner or colleague.

It is important for people to understand that the way each victim reacts to sexual violence will differ. Some victims may not be able to seek help or speak to their closest friends or family whilst others may feel that they are able to seek help through their GP or friends and family. Some victims may not feel they have been a victim of sexual violence as they do not have visible injuries, or the act itself did not involve physical violence or weapons. It may also take victims time to come to terms with what they have been subject to.

Consent

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 at Section 74 defines consent as “if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice”. It is NOT consent whereby the victim is asleep, unconscious, drunk, drugged or on drugs, pressured, manipulated, tricked, scared into saying yes or too young or vulnerable to have the capacity to make that choice.

It is extremely important to note that if there was no consent then it was sexual violence.

Some people may think that if somebody is their partner, wife or husband that they have an automatic right to have sex with them. This is not correct. Sex has to be consensual, therefore if there is no consent and the act is forced, it is sexual violence.

There are many different types of sexual violence for example:-

  1. Child Sexual Abuse
  2. Rape
  3. Sexual Assault
  4. Sexual harassment
  5. Female Genital Mutilation
  6. Sexual Exploitation
  7. Sex Trafficking
  8. Sexting
  9. Child Pornography

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse or violence and are not at the stage where you feel you can speak to somebody about it, there are still steps you can take to come to terms with it. Here are two:-

  1. Write it down – whilst many victims may ask “why do I want to write down what happened to me and bring flashbacks?”, it is important to try to remember as much as you can about what has happened and what is currently happening.
  2. Pick somebody you trust – it is never going to be easy talking to anybody about your experience but if you do not talk about it, nobody will be able to help you move forward. It is ok to talk and it is ok to seek help. By speaking to a loved one or a friend this can ease the burden on yourself and help you to understand that it is not your fault, that you are a victim, but that you are able to move forward with your life. If you don’t feel ready to disclose this to a loved one, seeking support from your GP, a religious leader or a Domestic Abuse Agency Worker is another option.

It is important to understand that it is NOT your fault. Speaking out about your experience with Sexual Abuse is one of the hardest things to talk about, it can make you feel afraid, scared, lonely, isolated and ashamed. You may constantly question whether anybody will believe you? Yes they will, it is never too late to tell someone, to seek help, to get out and no longer be a victim.

If you are the individual supporting a victim of sexual abuse it is important to remember the following:-

  1. Believe what the victim is saying and reassure them that you believe them.
  2. Listen to the victim. Don’t ask for specific details, don’t ask why they didn’t stop it. Just listen to them. The more you ask, the more the victim is likely to withdraw and feel as though you are blaming them.
  3. Offer support in the sense that you will go to any necessary appointments with them. Reassure the victim that they have your support.
  4. Respect the victim’s decision. If they do not feel they are ready to report the assault to the police, do not pressure them. The victim will do this in their own time.
  5. Do not tell the victim to “try to forget” about the abuse. It is a huge thing that will impact them long term as well as short term. The victim needs to be given the opportunity to come to terms with it, to grieve and to understand.

If you have been a victim of Sexual Abuse or Violence please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team to discuss options available to you. If you feel at this stage you need additional support, you can contact the below people/agencies who will be able to support you.

  1. A Doctor or Practice Nurse at your local GP Surgery
  2. Rape Crisis
  3. Women’s Aid
  4. Victim Support
  5. National Domestic Abuse Helpline
  6. The Survivors Trust
  7. Male Survivors Partnership
  8. Accident and Emergency
  9. Sexual Health Clinic
  10. Police
  11. Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs)

We can help

for legal advice and support contact our team wecanhelp@ringroselaw.co.uk

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