What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence comes in many forms but one thing is common – the survivor is never to blame. 

The simple definition of sexual violence is unwanted sexual attention.

Sexual violence includes; child sexual abuse, rape, assault, harassment (including via social media, email and text messaging), exploitation through pornography and/or prostitution, flashing and female genital mutilation (FGM).

Sexual violence can be committed by a stranger, partner, friend, acquaintance or relative, but is never, ever justified.  


Let’s get rid of some of the myths surrounding sexual violence.


Myth: She was wearing a short skirt – she was asking for it


No woman wants to be raped or sexually assaulted.  How she dresses is of no significance and is never an invitation to rape or abuse her.


Myth: We were kissing, so I knew she wanted to


A woman has a right to say no at any time during intimate contact, even during intercourse.  What has gone before does not give a person the right to continue if the woman does not want to.  Kissing is not a ‘green light’ for sex.


Myth: We’re married so it’s OK


A woman can be raped by her husband or partner.  Women are far more likely to be raped by their partner than by a stranger.  Sex without consent is always rape.


Myth: She was drunk


Drinking isn’t a crime.  If a woman is drunk and incapable then she’s not ‘fair game’.  In fact, ask yourself if she’s capable of consenting if she is drunk. 


Myth: It won’t happen to me


One in four women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime (WHO 2002).


Myth: Only young women are raped


Most of the cases reported to the police involved women aged 60-69. There were very few cases involving a male victim. The research found that most of the perpetrators were male (98%) and were typically younger than the victim (66% of perpetratprs were aged under 60).

The research found that most rapes happened in the victim’s home and most of the perpetrators were known to the victim, either as an acquaintance (26%) or partner / husband (20%) - similar to younger populations.

However, the second most common location was a care home. Older people may be particularly at risk of experiencing sexual violence in these contexts which has implications for care providers as well as support services.


Myth: Sexual abuse of older peple is different from younger people


Women and men of all ages can, and do, experience sexual violence. Recent research from The Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA) at Durham University found that there are around 150 rape and serious sexual assaults involving an adult aged 60 or over reported to the police each year across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, it is likely that the true figure is much higher, as rape is one of the most under-reported crimes and older people may experience specific barriers to disclosing abuse.


Myth:  Women who sell and negotiate sexual services cannot be raped


Anyone selling any form of sexual act, whether for money or payment in kind, has the right to consent to each individual act. The myth that individuals selling sex or other sexual acts cannot be raped is disempowering and can create barriers to reporting sexual assault and other forms of violence.


Myth:  I paid for it, I have the right to get what I paid for


Anyone selling sex has the right to withdraw consent at any time, even whilst having sex, if they want to stop or do not want to perform a particular sexual act regardless of whether or not this has been paid for.


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