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About sexual violence

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence can be defined as any unwanted behaviour or contact, of a sexual nature, that has the purpose or effect of causing harm or distress to another individual.

Sexual Violence can take many forms and may include, but is not limited to: rape, assault by penetration, childhood sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sexual assault including groping, unwelcome sexual advances, sexual harassment including catcalling and wolf-whistling, making sexualised comments (including jokes). It also includes posting pornographic material in shared spaces (physical or virtual), sending sexually explicit e-mails, texts or other communications and includes stalking in person or online.

Who does sexual violence happen to?

Sexual violence and abuse are much more common than people realise with approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men, in England and Wales, experiencing rape or attempted rape every year (MoJ and HO 2013) and 21% girls and 11% of boys experiencing sexual abuse during childhood (NSPCC 2010). Sexual violence can happen to anyone at any time in their lives regardless of race, sexuality, gender and age.

Sexual violence can be perpetrated within both personal and professional relationships as well as by strangers and acquaintances.

What can prevent people from disclosing sexual violence?

There are many reasons why survivors may be reluctant or unable to disclose that they have experienced sexual violence or abuse. One reason for this is that there is still little open discussion around sexual violence which means that misinformation can be common. Survivors themselves may be influenced by myths and stereotypes that place blame onto the survivor themselves or that minimise or fail to recognise the violence they have experienced. This can lead to survivors struggling with feelings of shame, self-blame and guilt.

Sexual violence and abuse thrive on the stigma and silence that surround them and leave those who have been victimised to cope alone. No-one ever deserves or asks for it to happen to them and there is no excuse or justification for sexual violence. There is help and support available to enable you to feel safe and confident enough to seek the support you deserve.

What are the impacts of sexual violence?

Everyone is an individual and so there is no set way to respond to the trauma or impact of sexual violence. It may be that you feel very emotional or depressed, feel guilt, anger or self-blame or have flashbacks and chronic anxiety. Or you may feel numb or completely unemotional. Whatever you feel or don’t feel and however you react is a completely valid response for you in order to cope with what happened to you. If you have had to cope with the impacts of abuse over a long period of time or cope alone it may be that you can no longer clearly identify what are impacts of the sexual violence experienced. Talking to someone can really help. Please view our leaflet with information and contact details of support services available.

Please remember that you are never to blame and that you are not alone.

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 was not your fault and you did not deserve this. For a list of places to get advice and support relating to sexual violence and abuse, view our sexual violence information leaflet.

Sexual violence referral pathway

The sexual violence referral pathway aims to provide clear guidance and resources for everyone on campus to help survivors of sexual violence understand their options and where to get appropriate support. View the referral pathway.

If having looked at the pathway you are unsure who to speak to then you can contact either Wellbeing Support Services or the SU Advice Centre and speak to someone about your options and where to get help.

If your studies are affected, we would advise contacting Wellbeing Support Services, the SU Advice Centre, or your personal tutor to get advice on the options available to you e.g. mitigating circumstances, or taking temporary withdrawal.