What is sexual assault?
The overall definition of sexual or indecent assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts. Engaging in a sexual act with an individual who is unable to give consent due to being incapacitated by alcohol or drugs may be treated as sexual assault under UK law.
What is rape?
The legal definition of rape is when a person intentionally penetrates another’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without the other person’s consent. Assault by penetration is when a person penetrates another person’s vagina or anus with any part of the body other than a penis, or by using an object, without the person’s consent. Additionally, the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex may also be treated as rape under UK law. Having penetrative sex with an individual who is unable to give consent due to being incapacitated by alcohol or drugs may be treated as rape under UK law.
REMEMBER – not all cases of rape or sexual assault involve violence, cause physical injury or leave visible marks. Rape and sexual assault can cause severe distress, emotional harm and injuries which can’t be seen, all of which can take a long time to recover from.
What is sexual misconduct and violence?
The University defines Sexual Misconduct and Violence as any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which occurs in person or by letter, telephone, text, email or other electronic and/or social media and includes, but is not limited to, the following behaviour:
- Engaging, or attempting to engage in a sexual act with another individual without consent;
- Sexually touching another person without their consent;
- Conduct of a sexual nature which creates (or could create) an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for others including making unwanted remarks of a sexual nature;
- Inappropriately showing sexual organs to another person;
- Repeatedly following another person without good reason;
- Recording and/or sharing intimate images or recordings of another person without their consent;
- Arranging or participating in events which may reasonably be assumed to cause degradation and humiliation to those who have experienced sexual violence, for example inappropriately themed social events or initiations.
Some real-world examples…
- Catcalling (making sexual remarks to or about) an individual from a car / on the street / at the gym / in a bar or club
- Adding another shot of alcohol to someone’s drink without their knowledge in order to get them drunk with the intention of sleeping with them
- Sending unsolicited nude photos or sexually explicit messages to someone
- Sharing nude photos or sexually explicit messages from another person with others to get back at them (also known as ‘revenge porn’)
- Physically harming a sexual partner during a sexual act without their explicit consent
- Coercive control or emotional abuse of a sexual / romantic partner
- Removing a condom during sex without your partner’s permission
- Knowingly infecting a sexual partner with a sexually transmitted infection
- Engaging in a sexual act with someone you know is unable to consent because they’re drunk / under the influence of drugs / asleep / unconscious / otherwise incapacitated
None of the examples above is a ‘grey area’: all of the above are illegal.
See Crown Prosecution Service website