Sexual violence: the facts

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence includes any form of sexual activity (involving physical contact, words, or photographs) that takes place without the other person’s full and informed consent. Rape and sexual assault are mostly carried out by someone known to the victim; a husband, boyfriend, friend, colleague or other family member.

Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, class, or background.

Research shows that the majority of sexual violence is experienced by women and girls, but men and boys can also be victims. If you are a man who has experienced sexual violence, visit our Support for Men page for further resources.


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Sexual violence can include:

  • Pressuring or forcing someone to do something sexual
  • Touching someone sexually without their permission
  • Unwanted sexting – sending sexually explicit texts and images to someone without their consent
  • Unwanted sexual attention – for example ‘wolf-whistling’, making sexualised comments about women’s bodies
  • Watching a sexual act take place without permission
  • Engaging in sexual acts with someone who is too drunk, or too intoxicated to give consent
  • Engaging in a sexual act with someone who is asleep or unconscious
  • Having sex with someone who cannot legally consent – for example, a boy or girl under the age of 16, or someone with disability who does not have the capacity to understand the situation
  • Making someone watch or appear in pornography against their will
  • Preventing someone from using contraception

 Did you know?

  • Approximately 69,000 women and 9,000 men in the UK are victims of rape or attempted rape each year (Crime Survey of England and Wales 2013/14)
  • 1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14)
  • Nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14)
  • 1 in 3 teenage girls in England has been pressured into doing something sexual by a partner (Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Relationships, 2015)
  • Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013)
  • A third of female students in the UK have experienced inappropriate touching or groping at university (Telegraph study, 2015)