Rape and sexual assault

What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?

Rape means somebody having sex with you without your consent (by sex we mean somebody inserting their penis into your vagina, mouth or anus).

Sexual assault is a broader term which can cover a range of offences; in fact any sexual contact without your consent is sexual assault.

What exactly is sexual assault?

It's a myth that victims of sexual assault always look battered and bruised. A sexual assault may leave no outward signs, but it's still a crime.

Victims can be men and women of any age, race, ability or sexuality. The perpetrator (the person carrying out the assault) could be a stranger or someone known to the victim. It could be a partner, former partner, husband, relative, friend or colleague.

Many sexual assaults happen in the home of the victim or perpetrator, but they can happen anywhere.

Sexual assault is a sexual act that is carried out without the victim’s active consent. This means they didn’t agree to it.

If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.

Where to get help

Reporting sexual assault to the police

You can report the assault to the police straight away or attend an Accident and Emergency department if you need medical help.

Dial 999 if the incident has just taken place or if you are in immediate danger. Alternatively, call your local police on 101 or go to your nearest police station .

Reporting rape or sexual assault (West Midlands Police)

However you don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to.

Other help and support

Sexual assault referral centre

The Horizon sexual assault referral centre (SARC) provides medical, practical and emotional support. They also perform forensic examinations (see below). If the assault was within the last seven days – or longer if you have visible injuries, e.g. bruising – a forensic examination can be arranged.

A forensic examination can help to provide evidence against the person who assaulted you. If you are unsure about whether or not you want to report the assault to the police at this time there are different options you can consider. For example, the forensic evidence can be collected and stored by the SARC to give you more time to decide.

You do not have to report to the police if you attend the SARC. It is your choice. Specially trained staff at the SARC can give you further information to help you to decide. They will support you whatever you decide.

You can call the Horizon 24-hour phone line on 0808 168 5698.

Horizon SARC

Umbrella clinics

Umbrella clinics can help with emergency contraception, advice about and checks for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and can arrange for you to see an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA), who is a specialist sexual violence worker.

You can choose to attend Umbrella's Abuse Survivors Clinic (ASC). This clinic offers support, advice, and non-urgent medical care for people over the age of 13 who have experienced sexual abuse. An ISVA runs this clinic, along with an experienced doctor.

Abuse Survivors Clinic

Rape and Sexual Violence Project

ISVAs are provided by the Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP), who offer practical and emotional support.

If you'd rather contact RSVP directly, you can call them on 0121 643 0301, and choose option 2 to go straight through to the ISVA team.

RSVP website

West Midlands Paediatric Sexual Assault Service

The West Midlands Paediatric Sexual Assault Service is a one-stop service open to anyone up to the age of 17 who has been the victim of rape, sexual violence and/or sexual abuse.

West Midlands Paediatric Sexual Assault Service

You can also tell someone you trust first, such as a friend, relative or teacher, who can help you get the support you need.

For further information on reporting rape or sexual assault to the police, please see the West Midlands Police website.

West Midlands Police advice centre