Sexual assault information
Sexual assault is a serious crime. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, whether recently or as a child, you don’t have to report it to the police if you don’t want to. But it is important to get help, and to not be afraid of speaking about what has happened.
Our patients’ safety and well-being are our priority, so we’ve compiled some information and guidance on sexual assault. We’ve also sign-posted some organisations and resources you can use/contact if you have been a victim of sexual assault or know some who has.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a sexual act that a person did not consent to, or was forced into against their will.
The term ‘assault’ to a lot of people would suggest violence, however the Metropolitan Police highlights that not all cases of sexual assault involve violence, cause physical injury or leave visible marks. Emotional damage (which cannot always be seen) can take a long time to recover from, therefore these cases are treated just as seriously as physical attacks.
More often than not, sexual assaults are carried out by someone known to the victim, whether it be a partner, relative, friend or colleague. Sexual assault can happen anywhere, but a lot of the time it takes place in the victim’s home, or that of the alleged abuser.
What counts as consent?
Really consent should be as simple as saying yes or no, i.e. you haven’t agreed to do something.
However, the term can sometimes become a bit of a grey area, which can make reporting sexual assault and asking for help even more daunting. But it is always important to remember, sexual assault isn’t your fault.
It wouldn’t be classed as consent if you were:
- threatened with violence
- subject to violence
- incapacitated by alcohol or recreational drugs
- not able to communicate lack of consent because of your disability
Recent and non-recent sexual assault
Sexual assault can fall into 2 groups, recent sexual assault and non-recent sexual assault.
Recent sexual assault is something that has happened to you in the last few hours, days, weeks or months.
Non-recent sexual assault, is when an adult was abused as a child or young person. It might be that you have only recently understood or recognised what happened to you in the past.
Impact of sexual assault
Sexual assault can have both short term and long term physical and psychological effects, no matter if you have been recently assaulted or it was at some point in the past.
It is possible to sustain physical injuries during a sexual assault. This could be a result of force, violence used or a struggle.
It is estimated that 12% of those who were sexually abused as children experienced physical injury. Hypertension, chronic fatigue, malnutrition, mobility, and problems with the reproductive system and childbirth are all linked to child sexual abuse.
Sexual assault can cause severe distress, which can have long lasting effects. It is thought that up to a third of those sexually abused as children report depression and up to 22% have attempted suicide.
Victims of both recent and non-recent sexual assault experience as a result anxiety and depression, eating disorders, PTSD, stress, relationship problems with partners, family and friends and they may self harm.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
After a sexual assault you may need some time to think about what happened. However if you are able, you should consider getting medical help as soon as possible as you could be at risk of an STI.
Get further advice and guidance from the NHS. Find a Sexual Assault Referral Centre near you.
If you have been the victim of sexual assault which involved vaginal penetration, you could become pregnant. A range of options are available to you from counselling to emergency contraception and abortion services. You can contact your GP, local sexual health clinic or SARC for further help.
Sources of help and advice for victims of sexual assault
Reporting a sexual assault to the police may help bring the alleged perpetrator to justice. If you do want the crime to be investigated, the sooner this happens the better, to make sure any forensic evidence is preserved. You can do this by either ringing the police or going into a police station near you. However, it is understandable that you may not want to discuss the matter with the police.
Services that can provide treatment and support are:
- Charitable organisations such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust, Survivors UK, NSPCC and NAPAC
- 4-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 24
- Rape Crisis centres
- Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year)
- Sexual health or contraceptive clinics
- Young people’s services such as Brook
- NHS 111
- 999 or 101 (non-urgent police line)
If you don’t know if you would like to report the assault or not, the best place to go is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre.
Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs)
Specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers provide practical advice to victims of sexual assault at SARCs. They give medical and emotional support for those who are not sure if they would like to report the assault to the police or not.
If you have reported the assault to the police, they can arrange for you to go to a SARC. At the SARC you can decide whether to have a forensic examination, as well as have tests for STIs and pregnancy.
Find out more about forensic medical examinations.
If you refer yourself to the SARC you can have the same check if you so wish. The centre can also arrange for you to have an informal chat with a specially trained police officer, to help you decide about reporting the assault to the police. The SARC can store the results of the forensic examination, giving you the option to go back and report the assault to the police at a later date.
In some SARCs there are independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs) who can help victims access organisations that can support them. These advisers can also give guidance on the criminal justice system if you decide to report the assault.
LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor STI test kits
We offer a variety of STI test kits on our website, however these are not suitable for the victims of recent sexual assault. You will need to contact one of the services mentioned above to help you through STI testing and to access the bespoke service you will need to help you recover from the assault.