Know that no means no

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There are a number of misconceptions around sexual assault…for example:

‘You can only report rape to the police’

You can report rape without having to speak to police. Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCS) are available to offer advice and support if you do not feel confident or comfortable in speaking to the police. They may be able to help you approach the police at a later stage if you want to. In addition, you can seek advice from charities and organisations who will discuss what kind of help is available to you.

‘The police won’t believe me’

The police take all rape and sexual assault reports seriously. No matter who you are, how long ago the assault happened, or how it took place; the police are committed to listening, understanding and helping you while always respecting your wishes.

‘You always needs to say no to show you don’t consent’

Not saying no does not mean that you consent to be sexually assaulted. You may be fearful of repercussions of saying no, you may also not be in a fit state to engage in sexual activity. This does not mean that you have consented.

‘You can’t have been sexually assaulted if you have no visible injuries’

Not every incident of sexual assault involves physical injuries; significant emotional damage can be caused too.

‘Most rapists are strangers’

A significant number of people who commit serious sexual offences know their victims, and in some cases are acquaintances, relatives, friends or work colleagues.

‘Wearing revealing clothing, or being too drunk on a night out caused them to be raped’

Someone’s behaviour does not mean that they are any more or less entitled to be a victim of a sexual assault. Nobody should have to feel that the way they look or how they behave has contributed to a crime like assault.

‘Men cannot be sexually assaulted’

Victims of serious sexual assault can be male, female or transgender, the perpetrator of a serious sexual assault can also be male, female or transgender.

‘My friend was told me, in confidence, they were raped – can I do anything?’

If someone you know has been assaulted, you can report it to the police. They will log it and encourage you to persuade your friend to make a report. Third party reporting is particularly effective if the victim does not feel comfortable in speaking to the police initially or if there is a language barrier. You can make a report anonymously if you wish.

‘Assault on someone of the same gender is a homosexual act’

Sexual assault is ultimately about power, control or domination of the other person, rather than a sexual attraction to one specific gender.

‘Rape and other sexual assault is an occupational hazard for sex workers’

Sex workers have the right to say no. Their work involves the agreement to provide specific services, not non-consensual sexual violence and other crime. They can be victimised by perpetrators of rape just like anyone else. The Metropolitan Police Service has brought to justice numerous perpetrators of rape against sex workers and takes crimes against sex workers very seriously.

If you are a sex worker you can sign up for free to the independently run National Ugly Mugs Scheme to report crimes against you, help alert other sex workers, get advice about reporting to the police and get information about sex work projects who can support you.

‘Rape cannot happen between husband and wife’

Consent is not dictated by any form of relationship status. It should never be taken as automatic or a right simply because you are married. If your partner, husband, or wife has forced you into having sex with them the matter is treated as seriously as with all other allegations of sexual assault.