Share via text

Sexual assault is an act that is carried out without the victim’s active consent. This means they didn’t agree to it. It is not uncommon for a victim of sexual assault to have no physical injuries or signs of their assault. But sexual assault is still a crime and can be reported to the police in the same way as other crimes.

sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone by anyone, but often it is by someone we know. This includes:

  • Being touched in a way you do not want to be touched
  • Someone making unwanted sexual demands
  • hurting you during sex
  • pressurizing you to have unsafe sex – for example, not using a condom
  • pressurising you to have sex when you don’t want to.

If someone has sex with you when you do not want to (i.e. no consent is given), this is rape.

Help after rape and sexual assault  

If someone has been sexually assaulted, whether as an adult or a young person, it is important to remember that it wasn’t their fault. Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Don’t be afraid to get help.

You don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to. You may need time to think about what has happened to you. However, consider getting medical help as soon as possible, because you may be at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you want the crime to be investigated, the sooner a forensic medical examination takes place, the better.

Try not to wash or change your clothes immediately after a sexual assault. This may destroy forensic evidence that could be important if you decide to report the assault to the police.

Where you go for help will depend on what’s available in your area and what you want to do. For specialist medical attention and sexual violence support, whether you decide to have a forensic medical examination or not, your first point of call is a sexual assault referral centre (SARC).

The following services will also provide treatment or support, and can refer you to another service if you need more specialist help (such as a SARC):

  • a doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery. See also and the UK Government ‘Enough’ campaign website.
  • a voluntary organisation, such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK (for male victims of sexual assault)
  • the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, 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
Sexual assault referral centres

Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support. They have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for you. Find your nearest SARC here.

Rape Crisis England & Wales: Free, confidential and specialist support and advocacy services for people whose lives have been impacted by sexual violence and abuse of any kind at any time. Live Chat Helpline is a free, confidential emotional support service for women and girls aged 16 and over who have experienced any form of sexual violence or abuse.: 0808 802 9999 (every day from 12pm to 2:30pm and 7pm to 9:30pm). Live chat emotional support (for women & girls 16+):

Rape Crisis Scotland: support people of all genders living in Scotland aged 13+ who have been affected by sexual Their helpline runs each day between 5pm – midnight: call: 08088 01 03 02, text: 07537 410 027, email:

Women’s aid – Women can email for support, specifying when and if it is safe to respond and to which email address. Staff will respond to the email within 5 working days.

The Survivor’s Trust provide specialist support for women, men and children who have survived rape, sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse:

Survivors UK – provide a national online helpline, individual and group counselling for boys, men and non-binary people aged 13+ who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives.

National Male Survivor Helpline and Online Support Service: Operated by Safeline. A dedicated service for adults and children who identify as male in England and Wales affected by rape or sexual abuse and those that support them such as friends and family.

Childline 0800 1111 24 Hours

For further help and support, please contact