Sexual Assault

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What is sexual assault?

If someone touches you on any private or intimate part of your body when you don’t want them to, this is sexual assault. This could be with their hand, with an object or with their mouth or tongue. And if someone has sex with you, or tries to, when you don’t want them to, this is called rape (or attempted sexual assault/rape). See more information about rape. 

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 “Come on, 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 done something with that person before, even if they’re your partner, ex or even if you’re married – it’s about whether you want to do it now, in this moment. And even if you’ve started and changed your mind, you can stop or decide you don’t like it any more, at any time. 

Find out more about consent. 

Who might sexually assault someone?

Sexual assault 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. It might happen like that.

But someone you know could also sexually assault you – for example someone you’re in a relationship with or are dating (or an ex), 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 sexual assault 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), or 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 sexually assaulted – this is a purely physical reaction and doesn’t mean consent or enjoyment. 

Sexual assault can happen in many different ways. All that matters is that someone touched your body when you didn’t want them to.

Sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust

Some people should never touch you sexually, 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.

Where can you get help and support?

A range of easy read guides have been created by Safer Scotland on rape. Rape Crisis Scotland also have an easy read guide called Surviving Sexual Abuse.

Find out where to get more support here.

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