Within society (#MeToo Movement) and particularly highlighted in the student community, the topic of consent has been at the forefront of many minds.
People typically talk about consent in the context of some kind of sexual or physical activity with a partner. In a healthy relationship, both (or all) partners are able to openly talk about and agree on what kind of activity they want to engage in. Whether it’s holding hands, kissing, touching, intercourse, or anything else, it’s really important for everyone in the relationship to feel comfortable with what’s happening.
What is consent?
“Someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if s/he agrees by choice to that penetration and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Consent to sexual activity may be given to one sort of sexual activity but not another, e.g.to vaginal but not anal sex or penetration with conditions, such as wearing a condom. Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity and each time activity occurs.” (Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003)
Sexual Assault, Rape and the Law
In the UK, there is understood to be a difference between what constitutes sexual assault and what can be classed as rape.
Rape is when an individual forces their penis into the mouth, anus or vagina of another person; when that person does not want them to do so. Noted as being ‘without consent’ under UK law.
Sexual assault is a crime that can be committed regardless of genitalia and can include:
- Being forced or pressured into sex acts which you don’t want to do
- Objects or parts of the body (e.g. a finger) being put into someone's vagina or anus when that person didn't want it to happen.
- Someone being touched in a sexual way that makes them feel uncomfortable or frightened. This could be through their clothes (like bottom pinching).
- Someone being made to masturbate
- Any other form of physical closeness that happens without consent is known as sexual assault.
Rape and Sexual Assault can carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. Other sentences can include the issue of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, or registering on the sex offenders notification requirement (otherwise known as the ‘Sex Offenders’ register).
Expectations when making an allegation
Each report of rape or sexual assault is unique to the individual and circumstance so the way that the investigation happens can vary. Despite this, there are standards for what you can expect from the Police. You can expect to:
- Be spoken to by a uniformed officer to take an initial account and ensure your welfare
- Have a Sexual Offence Investigation Technique (SOIT) officer assigned to you to explain what is happening at each step and answer any questions you may have.
- Have you right to anonymity protected if you attend court as a witness
Reporting- charities, hub, etc
There are options for how and where you report a case of rape or sexual assault. You can the Police and arranging to go to a station or arrange for them to meet in a place you are more comfortable with.
There are also several charities that can help you through making these reports should you feel the need for such support. Some of these include, Rape Crisis and Victim Support.
- One in Five Women in England and Wales have experienced some form of Sexual Assault since the age of 16
- 80% of victims did not report their experiences to the Police