Discussion of sexual violence, harassment, graphic definitions, heteronormativity, cisnormativity.
Sexual violence refers to any form of non-consensual sexual contact, abuse or coercion and should not be tolerated. Unfortunately, these are all things which may happen to or be perpetrated by members of the LGBTQ+ community; regardless of sexuality or gender identity.
If someone groped you on the bus, if someone pressured you into taking a hook-up further than you wanted to, if someone made you touch them, if someone had sex with you when you didn’t say yes, that’s sexual violence.
- Regardless of what their gender is or what your gender is
- Regardless of whether you know them or not.
- Regardless of what you were wearing.
- Regardless of how much you had to drink or had taken drugs.
- Regardless of anything else.
Nonconsensual sexual contact is sexual violence.
The legal definitions of sexual violence in the UK are as follows:
There are many forms of sexual violence which are criminal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, including rape, sexual assault, causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, and voyeurism.
Disclaimer- The LGBTQ+ Society recognises the cisnormativity and heteronormativity of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and its exclusion of trans and gender non conforming individuals and non heterosexual individuals. We also want to emphasise that the legal definitions do not constrict a survivor’s choice on how to label their experience. Due to the heteronormativity and cisnormativity of these definitions they don’t actually cover sexual violence between queer and non cis folk, something which does happen, therefore we encourage survivors to choose how and if to label their experience in any way that makes them feel comfortable.
The intentional penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with a penis, without the consent of the individual(s) or if the person penetrating does not reasonably believe they have the consent of the other person(s).
Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps the person penetrating has taken to ascertain whether the other person(s) consents.
(See sections 1 and 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003).
Assault by penetration
The non consensual intentional penetration of the vagina or anus with any body part e.g. fingers (not the penis) or any object e.g. sex toy.
(See sections 1 and 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003).
Sexual assault covers a wide range of possible conduct.
Sexual assault is any non-consensual touching of a person that is sexual.
Touching is sexual, according to English law, if it is by its nature inherently sexual, or if because of the circumstances or the purpose of the person doing the touching it is sexual. This is a very broad definition indeed. Sexual assault can range from stroking or grabbing someone’s body for sexual reasons without consent to non consensual masturbation of another person.
(See sections 3 and 78 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003).
Central to these offences is the concept of “consent”. The acts described in the offences are only criminal if they are done to a person who does not consent.
According to English law: “a person consents if they agree by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.” (See sections 74 to 76 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003).
It is presumed that a person does not have the freedom to consent if violence is used against them or threatened at the time of or just prior to the sexual act.
A person does not have capacity to consent if they are asleep or unconscious.
A person may lack capacity to consent it they are seriously impaired by drug or alcohol use.
English law makes it clear that a person who is intoxicated may not have the capacity to consent to sexual acts, even if they are conscious. This means that while it is possible to consent when intoxicated, a person may sometimes be too drunk to give effective consent. It is impossible to draw a clear line between someone who is drunk but still able to consent, and someone who is too drunk to consent. The best thing to do is adhere by best practice, if there is any doubt, err on the side of caution, always.
Ascertaining consent is as easy as saying “is this okay?”, “Do you like this?”, “yes?”. It isn’t a contract, it isn’t an ordeal, it’s just good communication.
Consent can be described as…
Affirmative – not an absence of ‘”no” but the presence of ‘”yes”.
Active – silence is not consent, nor is participation.
Freely Given – not something someone can be pressured into giving.
Temporary – never implied, and can be revoked.
Conscious – consent can’t be given when a person is unconscious or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
Mandatory – absolutely necessary, and is as easy as asking,‘”Is this okay?” and “Do you like this?”
Consent is not a contract, and can be withdrawn at any point.
There are more complex laws concerning children, people in positions of trust, people with a mental disorder which impedes choice, people with various mental illnesses etc, these are outlined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 also discusses indecent photographs of children, sexual exploitation of children, prostitution and trafficking.
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:
• Violates your dignity
• Makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated • Creates a hostile or offensive environment
You don’t need to have previously objected to someone’s behaviour for it to be considered unwanted.
The Survivors Trust
The Survivors Trust (TST) is a UK-wide national umbrella agency for 135 specialist organisations for support for the impact of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse throughout the UK and Ireland
Support, Advice and Info: 0808 801 0818
Speak to our Helpline and Online Advisors 0808 800 5008
Contact the #5MillionMen Support service 0808 800 5005 (male helpline)
Call our Young people’s Helpline 0808 800 5007
Text our Helpline and Online Advisors 07860 027573
Mon 10am–4pm, Tues 8am – 8pm, Weds 10am – 4pm, Thurs 8am – 8pm, Fri 10am – 4pm, Sat 10am – 12pm
Rape Crisis UK
Rape Crisis England & Wales is a national charity and the umbrella body for our network of independent member Rape Crisis Centres.
Freephone 0808 802 9999
10am – 12am every day
Live Fear Free
Live Fear Free is a Welsh Government website, providing information and advice for those suffering with violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Free and confidential helpline:
0808 8010 800 24/7
US based service, website is also available in Spanish. Live chat is available.
Is it an emergency? Ring 999!
If you are a survivor and want to contact the police that is completely ok, and if you don’t that is also completely ok and if you’re unsure that’s also ok!
Deciding what you want to do after experiencing sexual violence is completely up to the survivor and no choice is preferable over another.
This page will cover what happens when you go to the police, how you can go about it and what you can do as a survivor.
How do you report sexual violence to the police? (See the flowchart attached)
Contacting the police immediately after an incidence of sexual violence:
Having evidence collected does not mean that a report has to be made to the police, but it will help if a survivor later chooses to make a report.
Having evidence collected can be essential to building a legal case, especially in cases where the survivor has blacked out or suspects that drugs were used.
Key signs of date rape drugs include sudden dizziness, nausea, and amnesia. The symptoms will typically begin to set in about 20 minutes after the drug is consumed. Date rape drugs are normally drunk. Alcohol can also be a date rape drug.
To get evidence collected the survivor will have to go to a SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre):
The New Swindon Sanctuary
The Gables, Shrivenham Road, South Marston, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN3 4RB
Solace Centre Blethley
Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, MK3 6TP
Thames Valley SARC Slough
0845 519 7638
Upton Hospital, Church Street, Slough, SL1 2BJ
In regard to evidence collection this is a best practice list of instructions which should be followed as closely as possible, however, if a survivor cannot follow these this does not mean evidence is unattainable.
- Do not wash.
- Do not brush your teeth.
- Do not have a cigarette.
- Do not eat or drink.
- Do not change your clothes (or keep them safely to one side).
- Try not go to the toilet.
- Do not clear up anything from the area of the incident.
- Any evidence that is moved (clothes etc) should be picked up and stored in a paper bag.
Some colleges will reimburse you for taxis, should you have need of a SARC. Check with your college’s welfare reps or First Respondents.
Speaking to the police
It is best to report as soon as possible. However, you can report sexual violence at any point, even years after the event.
Things to know!
- You can have a translator and/or signer for any part of the police process
- You can bring a family or friend, however, they shouldn’t be a potential witness
- The process will be done at your pace
- You can stop the process at any point
- You will not be judged
- Your safety will be considered and appropriate measures to maintain your safety will always be put in place
- You are legally guaranteed anonymity from the press and public
- A first responder can help you through this process as can other welfare officers, including staff
- You can access support at anytime during the process and it will always be given to you
- You can also go through the police after going to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre