What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is a term used to describe any act of a sexual nature that a person did not consent to. 

A lack of consent means that you did not want or choose to take part in a sexual act or acts. It can also mean that at the time it took place you did not have the freedom or capacity to make a proper choice. 

Things that might stop you from being able to make a choice to consent are: 

  • Being drunk or under the influence of drugs 
  • Being unconscious or asleep 
  • Being under age – the legal age of consent is 16
  • Health or mental health problems or disabilities that limited your choices at the time

Things that can stop you from having the freedom to make a choice include:

  • Being threatened with violence against you or someone else
  • Being forced, pestered or coerced 
  • Being blackmailed 
  • If there is a power imbalance between you – for example they were a teacher or carer. 

People who experience sexual violence often describe feeling unable to move when it happened or responding in ways they did not expect. This is part of the body’s response to threat which can means we freeze, flop or befriend when someone is going to hurt us. If you did not fight, shout or run away that does not mean that you consented to an unwanted sexual act. 

If you are unsure about whether what you experienced was abusive, you may find it useful to access confidential and anonymous helplines to explore your thoughts and feelings.