Sexual assault and abuse

Sexual assault and abuse are terms used to describe a broad range of physical, visual and verbal sexual activities, which are unwanted and take place without consent.

Sexual assault and abuse can be a one-off event or happen repeatedly. In some cases, it involves the use of technology, such as the internet or social media. Abusers can be strangers but are often people known to victims such as partners, ex-partners, friends, or family members.

Sexual assault and abuse come in many forms, see some examples below.

If you are forced or coerced into any of these activities it is sexual abuse:  

  • rape, attempted rape or sexual assault
  • inappropriate touch anywhere on the body (above or below clothing)
  • non-consensual masturbation of either or both persons
  • non-consensual sexual penetration (with object or body part) or attempted penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth
  • any sexual activity that the person lacks the capacity to consent to (this may be because of learning difficulties, disabilities, mental health needs or the influence of alcohol or substances for example)
  • voyeurism (inappropriate looking/watching), sexual teasing or innuendo or sexual harassment
  • sexual photography or forced use of pornography or witnessing of sexual acts
  • taking a picture under another person’s clothing without their knowledge, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks (with or without underwear- often referred to as up skirting)
  • offline and online distribution of private sexual images of someone without their consent
  • indecent exposure
  • any sexual activity (contact or non-contact) with minors, whether consensual or not
  • incest (sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion between family members)

If this has happened to you, it is important to remember that it is not your fault. No-one asks or deserves to be abused or assaulted. Sexual assault and abuse are criminal offences, and the blame always lies with the abuser.

Find help

If you have a question about sexual abuse you can find FAQs at

If you have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse, there are free services you can access at the Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP). They support children and adults, and people of all genders. They also have some services for people supporting survivors.

Please contact RSVP to find out more about their services and to see how they can support you by calling 0121 643 0301 or emailing