Sexual Violence is any sexual act that is unwanted and that no consent has been given.
What is it?
When an individual gives their permission to engage in in activity by their own free mind without the influence of drugs, alcohol or persuaded.
The Age of Consent?
The legal age of sexual consent in the United Kingdom is 16 years old. This is the same for men and women who want to have sex with the same or opposite sex.
What is Rape?
The legal definition states a person commits rape if they intentionally penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with their penis without consent. However, for many, this definition may seem restrictive and those who are sexually assaulted by penetration may feel they do not fit the legal definition.
Everyone has the right to say ‘no’ to sex, to withdraw or withhold their consent for any sexual act, on any occasion and under any circumstances, regardless of whether they’ve given consent to sex with that person in the past and regardless of whether they’re in a relationship with the other person. Sex without consent is rape.
According to section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, someone consents when she or he “agrees by choice…and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”
There are no grey areas when it comes to consent, for example:
If someone is under the age of 16, they don’t legally have the capacity to consent to sex. If someone is asleep or unconscious, they don’t have the capacity to consent. If they’ve been kidnapped or held against their will, they don’t have the freedom to consent.
Freedom and capacity are central to the definition of consent, someone saying “yes” to sex doesn’t automatically mean they’ve consented. If someone is in an abusive or exploitative relationship, for example, they might say “yes” out of fear for their lives, or for the lives or well-being of family or friends. Being coerced, bullied, scared, shocked or threatened takes away our freedom and capacity to make choices in lots of different situations.
Sexual Consent in LGBT+ Community
Regardless of your sexual orientation or how you declare your own gender identity, everyone has the right to consent to sexual activity.
Many men may feel embarrassed or ashamed that another man has assaulted or even raped them, because they didn’t say ‘no’. The man being raped may be too afraid to speak, too drunk or asleep to stop it happening. This is still rape.
In women in same sex relationships feel no one will believe their partner assaulted them as the law states rape is legally defined by penis penetration. This is not the case, if a woman does not want to consent in sexual activity with another woman, that is assault. If this results in penetration, this defined as assault by penetration.
Disclosing your gender identity is a personal a choice and does not warrant your partner to believe it is okay to force you to engage in sexual activities until you are comfortable to do so. If you are transitioning, ‘coming out’ or entering a new relationship it does not remove the significance of consent.
Watch Thames Valley Police explain consent in this short video.
Additional resources to help you identify domestic violence and sexual assault and offer support to a friend or family member: