Photographer / Graphic designer: Sarah
CW: Discussion of r*pe and sexual assault
In England and Wales, at least 6.5 million women have been raped or sexually assaulted since the age of 16. In 2022 alone, 67,179 cases of rape were recorded by the police; yet the slow conviction rate discourages many survivors to report their experiences.
The legal definition of rape in the UK is the penetration of one’s vagina, anus, and/or mouth with a penis without their consent. It differs slightly from the explication of assault by penetration, where one’s vagina or anus is penetrated by any other body part other than the penis or by an object without permission. Moreover, the age of consent is 16; minors under the age of 13 are not able to provide legal consent to any form of sexual activity.
Say someone is assaulted, or experiencing harassment or abuse. We’re going to share some available options for seeking support. When someone is assaulted, their choice is taken away from them. When deciding what kind of police action or medical support to seek, the choice is in the survivor’s hands, every step of the way.
If someone’s life is in danger, call 999 or 112 and ask for the police, fire, or ambulance depending on the situation. The operator will then transfer the call to the appropriate service that you request.
If someone has been sexually assaulted, it was not their fault. They may not remember what exactly happened, and that is normal.
If a survivor is hurt with life-threatening injuries, ask for an ambulance by calling 999 or 112. Even if they don’t have any apparent injuries, it is important to go to the hospital and ask for a rape kit: this is a sexual assault examination performed to collect evidence after a rape. If they think they may be pregnant, they can ask the medical professional for options. Medical professionals can also test the survivor for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
A local sexual assault referral centre (SARC) will offer free medical examinations, consultations, and advice that are conducted by their qualified, professional staff. In this private and secure building, all details will remain confidential unless consent is present; however, there may be exceptions for anyone under 18. In those cases, the police and other social services may be required. SARC services carried out in forensic centres in Scotland, however, do not adhere to this convention. There is police interference.
Visiting the nearest genitourinary medicine clinic or sexual health clinic will also have similar resources available.
Mental health support:
Survivors may feel vulnerable, angry, confused, depressed, or another way after a sexual assault. There are mental health professionals who can help with the healing process, but more immediately, survivors may find comfort in your ‘Safe Buddies’. These can be trusted friends or family members. For mental health related helplines, follow this link to see which one is suitable for your situation: Helplines and listening services - Mind. __________________________________________________________________________________
Survivors have the choice to decide whether they want a police report filed and press charges against their assaulter(s). If they choose to, the police will record basic information about them. The authorities or the SARC staff will organise a medical examination for them, as well as any applicable treatment for physical injuries if the incident was recent.
Through the survivor contact scheme, the police officer will update the survivor on any updates in the case such as the apprehension of their perpetrator or the perpetrator’s bail release. The survivor will be asked to participate in this survivor contact scheme if they have undergone a violent/sexual crime and the offender is sentenced to 12 or more months. Additional information will also be shared, such as…
How to make a survivor statement at the parole hearing
How to apply for a “licence condition” (prevents the offender from engaging in certain activities that relate to the survivor, such as contacting them)
How to challenge a parole decision
If someone is in an abusive relationship, there is help available. First of all, if anyone’s life is in immediate danger, call 999 or 112.
There are many forms of abuse. Specifically, domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence, is a form of abuse used by the abuser to maintain power in a relationship through verbal, emotional, mental, sexual, reproductive, financial, or physical abuse and coercion.
The survivor can find a ‘Safe Buddy’ to help them, and check-in on them regularly- be it, friends or family. This person can help alert authorities if they don’t respond to a check-in text, call, or email within a reasonable amount of time. They can also come up with a code word if there are concerns of their abuser reading their messages.
If the survivor is looking for support services online, and is concerned their abuser will see them, they can use ‘incognito’ web browser features, which ensure that searches and web activity cannot be tracked on that device.
Survivors can also reach out to local women’s shelters.
If you’re worried about the safety of a loved one, how can you help?
If their life is in danger, call 999 or 112.
Otherwise, you can share resources and information, like this article. Be kind, understanding, and above all else, non-judgemental. Victims are often unaware they’re in an abusive relationship, or they depend on their abuser for things like a home, an allowance, or they are being gaslighted. Gaslighting is when the abuser denies ever being abusive when confronted about their actions and behaviour, and is a form of mental and emotional abuse.
For the person you are trying to help, even though they may not immediately leave their relationship, you showing belief in their experience validates it, and may give them the strength and assurance needed to leave.
As an ally, you can also offer to go with them to the police, the hospital, to court, or be with them when they call a crisis line or shelter. When victims are isolated from their support networks, it, unfortunately, gives their abuser more power over them.
Believe them. Stand with them, no matter what they decide. Be an ally.
Sources/ Sources for further reading:
GOV.UK: 999 and 112: the UK’s national emergency numbers
Rape Crisis England & Wales: Statistics about rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse
Metropolitan Police: What is rape and sexual assault?
GOV.UK: Victim of rape and sexual assault abroad
NHS: What services do sexual health clinics (GUM clinics) provide?
Mind: Helplines and listening services
P2063_06-Rape-and-sexual-assault_women-leaflet-PMS-268-12042021.pdf (victimsupport.org.uk): Victim support - information for women
GOV.UK: Get support as a victim of crime