A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape (an assault involving penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth with a penis), or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing or child sexual abuse.

Sexual assault is an act that is carried out without the victim’s active consent. This means they didn’t agree to it. Active consent also means that the person must be capable of agreeing to sex (not asleep, unconscious or under the influence of alcohol or drugs).

Sometimes a victim of sexual assault may have no physical injuries or signs of their assault, this doesn’t matter, sexual assault is still a crime and can be reported to the police in the same way as other crimes.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2018 showed that police recorded 150,732 sexual offences, encompassing rape (53,977 cases) and sexual assault, and also sexual activity with children.

Most sexual assaults are carried out by someone known to the victim. This could be a partner, former partner, relative, friend or colleague. The assault can happen anywhere and at any time of day or night.

Sexual violence or assault can happen to anyone of any age; men, women and children. It’s important that anyone affected receives the right advice and support.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, you can report the assault to police by calling 999 or 101 or you can contact the Devon and Cornwall sexual assault referral centre (SARC) by calling 0300 3034626, or by submitting an online referral form and  they will call you back at a time you specify.  The Devon & Cornwall SARC  is there to offer you advice and support to help you through this difficult time.

You may need time to think about what has happened to you however, you should consider getting medical help as soon as possible because you may be at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can also talk to staff at one of  our Devon Sexual Health clinics.