``I no longer blame myself. I know it was not my fault.``
Sexual violence can affect anyone at any time in their lives, regardless of age, gender, social background, ethnic background, religion or belief, disability, or sexual orientation.
Legislation in Wales defines sexual violence as rape, contact and non-contact sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexual assault.
There are many forms of sexual violence, and every person who experiences sexual violence will be affected differently. There are also many myths and misunderstandings around sexual violence. This can make it difficult to know if what happened to you was sexual violence.
Sexual violence can be committed by someone you know, including members of your family, and can happen within relationships. Sexual violence can also be committed by a stranger.
Sexual violence can happen to adults and children. Sexual violence mostly affects women and can be a gendered issue, however some people are not aware that sexual violence also affects men and non-binary people, and our services are for everyone.
We hope this list can help you to get the support you need.
The legal definition of rape is ‘When a person penetrates another person’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without consent.’
The legal definition of Sexual Assault is ‘An act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.’
Sexual assault can include unwanted touching of clothing, being touched or grabbed, or someone rubbing against you with their pelvic area.
Penetration of another person’s vagina or anus with a body part that is not a penis, or with an object, without consent is defined as ‘sexual assault by penetration.’ This crime carries the same sentence as rape.
Child Sexual Abuse
A child can never consent to sexual activity with an adult.
When an adult, or older child or peer, scares, manipulates, tricks or forces a child into taking part in sexual activity, this is sexual abuse. This can include contact activity (e.g. rape, masturbation, kissing and touching), as well as non-contact activity (e.g. explicit sexual talk or showing pornography to children).
Child sexual abuse can be perpetrated by an adult, or an older child or peer.
The definition of sex trafficking is ‘when adults or children are recruited, harboured, transported, provided or obtained, under force, fraud or coercion, to perform a commercial sex act.’ Sex trafficking does not have to include travel or movement across borders, and happens to UK-born citizens on UK soil. The ‘payment’ for the sex act does not have to include money; the benefits could include any advantage gained by the trafficker (or another person) such as personal benefit or privilege as well as financial gains or property.
Child Sexual Exploitation is when a child or young person is taken advantage of through an imbalance of power, to coerce or manipulate them into sexual activity. Exploitation can include being given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection, or can include coercion such as threats or blackmail. The child or young person may believe that the sexual activity is consensual, but a child cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult. Sexual exploitation does not always include physical contact, and can occur through the use of technology (such as coercion to share sexually explicit images online).
The definition of 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.’
Sexual harassment can include being victim to indecent exposure, being sent or given images of a sexual nature, or unwanted sexual advances or sexual threats.
(Official legislation/policy: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/2017-03-31?view=plain, https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-07/national-action-plan-preventing-and-responding-to-child-sexual-abuse.pdf, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/30/contents/enacted, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents).
- The person had capacity (i.e. the age and understanding) to make a choice about whether or not to take part in the sexual activity at the time.
- The person was in a position to make that choice freely, and was not constrained in any way.
There are some key things to note about consent:
- Children can never give consent to sexual activity with an adult.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Someone cannot continue a sex act or activity if you have withdrawn consent.
- Consent cannot be given if someone is so under the influence of drugs or alcohol that they are not in their right state of mind.
- Consent cannot be given if someone does not feel free to say no. If someone is being threatened, detained or coerced, they cannot consent.
- If someone does not have mental capacity to consent, due to disability or mental state, then they cannot consent.
- Consent cannot be given if someone is asleep or unconscious.
Consent does not just mean ‘saying no.’ If someone stays quiet and does not move, if they move away or try to push that person away, or if someone is visibly distressed or upset, this is not consent. Many people who have experienced sexual violence will stay quiet and still and ‘freeze’ or ‘flop.’ This does not mean that they consented.