What is Rape & Sexual Assault?

What is Consent?

Consent is when a person freely agrees to a sexual activity of any kind. If a person says yes to a sexual act out of fear of the consequences this is not consent. If someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs consent should never be assumed.

What is Rape?

Rape is when a person intentionally penetrates a vagina, anus or mouth with a penis without consent. Consent should not be assumed and a person should have a reasonable belief that consent has been given. If a person is asleep or very drunk it should not be assumed that they are consenting just because they haven't said ‘no'. It should also not be assumed that because two people are married, in a relationship or have had sex before that there is consent to any further sexual activity.


Rape can only be committed by a male as it involves a penis but both males and females can be the victims. Rape is a serious crime.

When does it become rape?

As soon as someone's mouth, vagina or anus has been penetrated by a penis, that is rape, no matter how long for or whether the offender ejaculates or not. Penetration is to any degree.

What is Assault by Penetration?

Assault by penetration is when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person with a part of their body or anything else without consent. This can include inserting a finger or sex toy. This can be committed by males and females and the victim can be either gender.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is when a person intentionally touches another person in a sexual way without consent. This includes groping breasts, crotches and bottoms. This can be committed by males and females and the victim can be either gender.

Other Sexual Offences:

The Sexual Offences Act is quite complex and covers a lot of offences as well as rape and sexual assault, such as sexual exploitation, prostitution and possessing or making indecent images. There are a variety of offences involving adults encouraging or forcing children into sexual acts, exposing them to sexual acts or pornography. Essentially if someone does something to you against your will in a sexual way it is likely to be an offence.

Can children agree or consent to sex?

The law considers that children under 13 cannot give their consent to any sexual activity therefore any penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus of a person under that age is automatically rape. The age at which children can legally consent to sexual activity is 16 so it is an offence to have sex with a child who is between the ages of 13 and 16 even if that child is willing to participate, although as there is the element of consent it is not rape. In some circumstances, for example a teacher/pupil relationship or other position of trust is unlawful to have sex with someone under 18.