"No" means no. Being forced or tricked into a sexual act is not what you asked for and not your fault. And it's a crime.

What is rape and sexual assault?

Rape Crisis define rape as "an act of violence and domination and anger. It uses sexual acts including penetration as weapons". They also explain that The Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines it as, without consent, the penetration by a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person. A person consents if he or she agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

In other words, if you didn't know what you were doing and you didn't want to do it, it's rape. For instance, being drunk, stoned, tricked or forced means you didn't know or couldn't choose. And if you didn't struggle or fight back that doesn't prove anything either. It's still rape.

Sexual (or indecent) assault  is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, which is inflicted on someone without consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts other than those which amount to rape.

Get rid of the myths

Whatever you might have thought, it can happen to blokes, too, and rapists can be male or female, too. It is never your fault. The blame lies squarely with the rapist or person who assaults you. Survivors tell the truth about some myths about male rape

So much for what constitutes rape and sexual assault then, but what if it happens to you or someone you know?

Childline explain: 
"Experiencing rape or sexual assault can leave you feeling all sorts of emotions and it is okay to feel like this. Here are the most common reactions:

  • Shock: You might feel ‘numb’ or surprisingly calm and shocked over what happened.
  • Embarrassment: You might be worried about what people will think and how you will tell them.
  • Guilt: Wrongly thinking that it was your fault or being mad at yourself for not stopping it.
  • Fear:You might have flashbacks or nightmares and feel frightened about being alone.
  • Anger: Wanting to lash out and hurt the person responsible or yourself.
  • Depression: Feeling hopeless or sad - like you don’t have anything to look forward to anymore.

Survivors goes one step further in describing the range of feelings a man who has been raped might have.

What to do and who to turn to

NHS Choices explain what to do : "If you've been sexually assaulted there are services that can help. You don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to. Other services and organisations won’t insist that you do. However, consider getting medical help as soon as possible because you may be at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. If you get help immediately after the assault, try not to wash or change your clothes. This may destroy forensic evidence that could be important if you decide to report the assault to the police".

They suggest you contact one of the following :

  • sexual assault referral centre (SARC), if there's one in your area
  • a doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery 
  • a voluntary organisation, such as Rape Crisis or Women’s Aid
  • the free, 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on  FREE 0808 2000 247 
  • the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre national freephone helpline on  FREE 0808 802 9999  (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year) 
  • a hospital accident and emergency department 
  • a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
  • a contraceptive clinic
  • a young people’s service
  • NHS Direct (0845 4647)
  • the police 
  • in an emergency, dial 999

and they describe in detail what happens when you go to a SARC clinic and if you decide to involve the police. The Oasis at Rivergate in Peterborough is the SARC (Sexual assualt referral centre) for Cambridgeshire. You can contact them yourself or be referred by a professional. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will help you whenever the incident took place, recently or longer ago.

This video from TheSite finds out what happens when you visit a SARC:

There is generally separate help for women/girls and men/boys. Some services are only for over 18's but almost any of them will refer you to somwhere else if you contact them and they can't help you:

  • Rape Crisis Centres have some local centres and provide a telephone helpline service for women and girls who are survivors of rape, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment or any form of sexual violence. Or you can call the national helpline to speak to a trained counsellor and who can tell you where your nearest centre is if you would like face to face counselling and support. Call in confidence: Freephone  FREE 0808 802 99 99 12n-2.30pm /7pm-9.30 every day
  • Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre for women and girls only 
  • Peterborough Rape Crisis Care Group for women and girls only     
  • Scottish site 18 and under (18U) are there for young people who have suffered abuse including sexual abuse and bullying
  • The Rape and Abuse line :  open at times specified on the answer phone, you can leave a message for a call back within a few days : Answered by Female Support Workers  Free 0808 8000 123 and Answered By Male Support Workers  Free 0808 8000 122 
  • Victim Support has separate information for women and men. Contact Victim Supportline on  Free 0845 30 30 900  or email.
  • Survivors is for over 18 men only - 0845 122 1201 7pm-9.30pm, Monday and Tuesday/ 12noon-2.30pm, Thursday.
  • The Havens are London-based centres for victims of rape and sexual assault. If you can't get there, their website has a lot of information and help. You can download their "Coping with Sexual Assault - A guide for Young People" They also give advice on supporting someone else who has been sexually assaulted.

A word about "date rape", drugs and alcohol

Whilst it is never your fault if you are raped or sexually assaulted, there are situations where you are at additional risk by being not in control of yourself through drink and drugs, and in the case of date rape, those can have been slipped to you without you even knowing. Net result - you are not in any state to say "no" effectively, and no way of knowing if your attacker would have backed off if you had done. But why make it easier for them?

When someone spikes your drink with alcohol or drugs, it might only be for a laugh but it can also be for the sinister purpose of assaulting or raping you. The Roofie Foundation are the experts in this field; read what they have to say about drink spinking and how to avoid it. The Havens also give advice on staying safe from drug assisted rape or assault on a night out .

You could also read GTRT's page on being unsafe or in danger for common sense stuff on keeping away from trouble if you can.

There is nothing soft about trying to stay safe and minimising the risks whether you stay in or go out.  

 

The page was last updated on 18 June 2014 by andrea.bateman.

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