What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence refers to any behaviour or activity, perceived to be of a sexual nature, where consent is not obtained or freely given. It occurs any time a person is forced, coerced or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity.

There are many types of sexual violence. Not all include physical contact between the victim and the perpetrator (person who harms someone else).

The range of sexual violence includes (but is not limited to):

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Incest
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Unwanted or inappropriate sexual contact or touching
  • Sexual harassment
  • Exposure or flashing
  • Ritual abuse
  • Forced participation in / watching of pornography
  • Threats
  • Sexting
  • Stalking / cyberstalking
  • Forced prostitution
  • Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation
  • Peeping
  • Female genital mutilation

Sexual violence is a crime. It is motivated by the need to control, humiliate, or harm. It is not motivated by uncontrollable sexual desire. Perpetrators of sexual violence use sex as a weapon to dominate and hurt others. Sexual violence can be perpetrated by a stranger, although most survivors of sexual violence know their perpetrators before the assault.

Sexual violence can happen to anyone. No-one ever deserves for it to happen or asks for it. If you have been raped or experienced any other kind of sexual violence, no matter where you were, what you were doing, what you were wearing, what you were saying, if you were drunk or under the influence of drugs; it is never your fault, and you did not deserve this.

Sexual Violence Within Marriage

Rape and sexual violence also exists within marriage, or any other relationship; and is categorically wrong.

Incredibly, it only became illegal to commit rape within marriage in 1991 in England and Wales. Before then, there was no legal protection for individuals who experienced the crime of rape perpetrated by a spouse or ex-spouse. This may go some way to explain why so many people do not recognise sexual violence and rape within marriage when it happens to them.

Any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse, committed without consent and / or against a person’s will, obtained by force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent, are incidents of sexual violence, and are criminal acts. These sexual acts can include intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behaviour with other individuals, and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted.

You always have the right to say no to sex, regardless of whether you have previously had consensual sex with the person, regardless of whether you are in a relationship with the person, and regardless of whether you are married to the person.

It can be very difficult to accept that someone who is supposed to love you could treat you so badly, but it is important to recognise that what is happening is wrong, that you are not at fault and that the actions of your partner are not acceptable.

We are here if you need to talk to someone in confidence if you, or someone you support, has experienced or are worried about sexual violence within a marriage or relationship.