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If you have been victim of sexual violence it isn’t your fault – where you were, if you had been drinking, what you were wearing, etc. Sexual violence is the sole responsibility of the perpetrator though we know that victims may blame themselves. Whether the incident happened recently or in the past, remember that sexual violence is a crime and you should not be afraid to seek help. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age or sexuality.

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is an act(s) that is carried out without the victim’s consent. This means you didn’t agree to it.

If someone touches or grabs you in an unwanted sexual manner, this is sexual assault. If someone forcibly kisses you against your will, this is sexual assault. Sexual assault can take many forms, the key thing is it is done to you without your consent.

If you are forcibly penetrated by someone else without giving consent that is rape.

How can I get help?

If you have experienced sexual violence, there is help out there. You don’t need to report it to the police if you don’t want to and you can still get help. However, it is advisable to get medical help as soon as you can – this is to combat the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can go to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre nearest to you and have a forensic medical examination (even when you have not reported to the police) which will be handled supportively and sympathetically – they will store your forensic samples (evidence) for 12 months and if you change your mind about reporting to the police, the evidence has not been lost. They can also test and advise you about STIs and pregnancy.

Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs)

SARCs offer medical, practical and emotional support. They have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for you. If you have not reported the assault to the police, you can still refer yourself to a SARC for assessment and medical treatment to prevent some STIs and pregnancy and find support.

The following services will provide treatment or support, or can refer you to another service:

  • find a sexual assault referral centre (SARC)
  • a doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery
  • find a service local to you by searching on the Victims Choice website
  • the free, 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247
  • the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year)
  • a hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department
  • a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
  • a contraceptive clinic
  • a young people’s service
  • NHS 111
  • the police, or dial 101
  • in an emergency, dial 999