About sexual violence

Sexual violence is what happens when someone does not consent to a sexual act. There are many different kinds of sexual violence from flashing and voyeurism to sexual assault and rape. It can happen to anyone - women, men, girls and boys - of every age, race, sexual orientation and religious background.

No one ever deserves or asks for it to happen.

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, you did not deserve this. The responsibility always lies with the attacker, not you.

Research shows that women are more often attacked by someone they know and trust. This may be their boyfriend, husband or partner and can happen in the context of an intimate relationship. They may have been sexually abused as a child by an adult known to them.

You always have the right to say no to sex, whether or not you have previously had consensual sex with someone.

  • Try to be somewhere that feels safe.
  • Keep warm and drink plenty of fluids.
  • If possible, see if a friend or someone you trust can be with you.
  • Have any injuries treated by your doctor or at a hospital.
  • If you want to report the assault, contact the police so they can arrange a forensic examination as soon as possible. They will want to get as much evidence as possible. So, don’t wash, eat or drink.
  • If you change your clothes, put them in a bag to give to the police.
  • Tell the police if you think you may have been drugged or your drink ‘spiked’. They will arrange for blood and urine tests.
  • You might not feel like reporting now, but you might in time. So keep the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault, don’t wash them and put them in a plastic bag.
  • If you wash yourself, use safe products, not household cleaning products as they can be harmful.
  • If there is a possibility of pregnancy you may want to take the morning after pill (up to 72 hours after) or have a coil fitted (up to 5 days after). You may need to go to a doctor.
  • Go to a doctor if you are worried about sexually transmitted infections.

Everyone reacts differently to a traumatic event. Whatever you feel is a natural response to what has happened. Some examples are below. But you might feel none of these. Whatever you feel, it is important to get support if you need this.

  • If you have been attacked recently you may be in shock. This can mean that you are feeling numb, unemotional, be in total disbelief, be crying, shaking, laughing or physically being sick.
  • You may feel to blame and responsible for what has happened.
  • You may be having nightmares or experiencing difficulties sleeping.
  • You may be “reliving” the events (flashbacks), these can be triggered by a sound, situation or smell and can be very frightening.
  • You may have lost confidence, trust in yourself and others.
  • You may be feeling worthless or have feelings of self-hatred.
  • You may be finding it difficult to cope with day-to-day life.
  • You may be feeling angry, irritable and be short-tempered with those close to you.
  • You may feel dirty and ashamed about what has happened.
  • You may be depressed, upset and tearful a lot of the time.
  • You may feel suicidal.
  • You may be afraid for example of people, places, being on your own.
  • You may be experiencing relationship or sexual difficulties.
  • It is important to ask for help if you are feeling any of these things.

Take things at your own pace. There is no right or wrong about how long it can take to come to terms with something like this.

It can be hard to look after yourself when you are going through a traumatic time, but it is important to eat and sleep as well as you can. Everything can seem much harder to cope with when you are tired and run down.

You don’t have to cope alone.

Share your thoughts and feelings about your experience with a trusted friend or family member, partner or another survivor.

You can also speak in confidence to a rape crisis centre. Use the form included on all pages of this site to find a rape crisis centre near you.

It is up to you whether to report what has happened, immediately or some time – even years - later. If you decide to report to the police/legal authorities think about taking a friend or relative with you for support.

You can contact a rape crisis centre for help with reporting.