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What is sexual assault?

‘Sexual assault’ is a term often used to describe any kind of sexual violence or activity (including online) that was unwanted or involved one or more of the following:

pressure, manipulation, bullying,
intimidation, threats, deception and/or force

Some types of sexual violence

  • Attempted rape
  • Rape
  • Assault by penetration
  • Child sexual assault
  • Sexual touching
  • Sexual harassment
  • Indecent exposure
  • Cyber flashing
  • Spiking (like food and drinks)

Myths surrounding sexual assault

Many of the myths surrounding sexual assault can make those who have experienced it feel as though they are somehow to blame. 

You are never to blame for any sexual assault that happens to you. 100% of the blame lies with the perpetrator or perpetrators.

Some important things to remember about sexual assault are:

  • It can happen to anyone regardless of their age or gender.
  • It does not always leave visible injuries.
  • It does not have to involve physical violence or weapons.
  • It can be perpetrated by a stranger or someone that the person knows or trusts like a partner or ex-partner, family member, friend, teacher, or colleague.


Myth: People who have been sexually abused are likely to become a perpetrator.

Fact: Most survivors of sexual violence will not become the perpetrator of sexual violence.


Myth: Men cannot and do not get raped.

Fact: This is false. 5.7% of all adult men aged 16 to 74 in England and Wales have experienced sexual assault at least once since the age of 16. More information here.


Myth: Only gay men can be raped and only gay men can rape men.

Fact: Anyone can be a victim of rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence, including men and boys of all sexual orientations. Rape is about power and control for perpetrators. So, for some perpetrators, it doesn’t matter what their victim’s gender or sexual orientation is.


Myth: Women cannot rape men.

Fact: The definition of rape is the act of non-consensual penile penetration. However, this does not mean that a female cannot sexually assault or abuse a male. It is still a very serious criminal offence.

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