What Is Rape?

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What is rape?

If someone has sexual intercourse with you, or tries to, when you don’t want them to, this is called rape (or attempted sexual assault/rape).

Sex can include any kind of sexual activity, like touching, but ‘having sex’ or ‘sexual intercourse’ usually means a penis, hand, tongue or object going inside the vagina, mouth or anus.   

What is consent?

Consent is when you want something to happen and agree to it. It’s important that no one ever does anything sexual to you unless you consent – it’s your body and no one should ever do anything to you that you don’t want.

If someone puts pressure on you by saying things like “You won’t know if you like it until you try”, uses threats to try to get you to do things by saying things like “You wouldn’t want me to post that picture on Snapchat/Instagram would you?” or tries to manipulate you by saying things like “I thought you were cool/more experienced”, they’re not respecting you and it wouldn’t be consent.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex with that person before, or if they’re your partner, ex, or even if you’re married – it’s about whether you want to do it then, in that moment. Even if you’ve started having sexual intercourse and then changed your mind, you can stop or decide you don’t like it or want it any more, at any time. 

Find out more about consent.

Who might rape someone?

Rape can happen in lots in different ways. People often think it would be a stranger who assaults you when you’re alone at night and that there has to be physical force.

But rape can also happen when you know the person – for example someone you’re in a relationship with or are dating, someone you know from school, college or work, a family member or someone you meet at a party.

There might not be any physical force involved either – some people who have experienced rape say they froze, tried to negotiate with the person (this might involve them saying you can do this instead – even though they don’t want to do anything), didn’t feel they could stop things happening or were afraid of what might happen if they tried to. Some people also become aroused even though they were raped – this is a purely physical reaction and doesn’t mean consent or enjoyment.

Rape can happen in many different ways. All that matters is that someone had sex with you, or attempted to, when you didn’t want them to.

Rape by a person in a position of trust

Some people should never have sex with you, under any circumstances.

For example your parent, a family member, your carer or school teacher. This is because they have a responsibility to care for you, or because they’re in a position of power.

Someone in a position of power is someone who can tell you what to do, like a teacher or a police officer for example.

Under the law, this applies until you are 18 years of age (see the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 Part 5: Abuse of Position of Trust).

Where can you get help and support?

Rape Crisis Scotland have a guide called Surviving Sexual Abuse that could help if you think you have been sexually abused.

Find out where to get support.

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