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What is sexual violence?

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence happens when someone forces you to have sex or commit a sexual act without your consent, including incidents that happen online or virtually.

Sexual violence does not have to involve any kind of weapon or physical violence or leave you with physical injuries. If you didn’t try to scream or run away that does not mean it wasn’t sexual violence – it’s really common for people in this situation to find themselves unable to speak or move.

If you’re under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, you cannot consent to a sexual act. If you are assaulted once under the influence, this is a criminal offence. 

If you’ve been sexually assaulted or raped, it’s important to remember that it isn’t your fault.

Getting help

You don’t have to report an incident of sexual violence to the police if you don’t want to. You might need time to think about what has happened to you or someone to talk to who can explain your options. You can do this even if the incident occurred a long time ago.

If you’ve experienced sexual violence, consider contacting your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for practical and emotional support, and onward referrals to specialist support services.

Some of the support available following rape or sexual assault is time sensitive If you’ve experienced sexual violence recently, contacting your local SARC in a timely manner allows for specialist Crisis Workers and Sexual Offence Examiners to provide you with the full range of care and support options available. You may have concerns about your health and wellbeing following sexual violence. You may also wish to preserve forensic evidence to give you time to think about reporting. SARCs may be able to offer you a medical examination to address care and support needs.

You can access SARC support with or without police involvement. If you are thinking about reporting to the police, SARC staff can help explain your options. If you have experienced sexual violence recently, a SARC may be able to support you in collecting and preserving forensic evidence.

If you live in Swindon and Wiltshire you can find out more about our Sexual Assault Referral Centre

If you’re in another part of the UK you can find your nearest Sexual Assault Centre using this search tool on the NHS website.

More information

About First Light

First Light is a charity supporting people in Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire who have been affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Get help

If you or someone you know have experienced domestic abuse or sexual violence it can be difficult to know where to turn. First Light is here to help.

Our locations

We offer different services in different parts of the UK; including Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon and Wiltshire.