Sexual Violence

What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is an umbrella term for a wide range of sexual acts, including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Rape is sexual intercourse vaginally, anally, or orally without consent.

Sexual assault is any sexual contact without consent.

Sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that you find offensive or which makes you feel distressed, intimidated or humiliated. Although sexual harassment happens everywhere, it’s very common at work and can lead to physical and mental anxiety.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Being stared or leered at,
  • Physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances and touching,
  • Suggestive comments,
  • Taunts, insults or jokes,
  • E-mails or text messages with sexual content,
  • Repeated sexual or romantic requests,
  • Someone displaying sexually explicit pictures in your space or a shared space, such as at work.

Taking Action

If you’re experiencing sexual harassment, you could:

  • Confide in someone at work that you trust.
  • Confront the person/people who are harassing you by letting them know their behaviour isn’t acceptable. You can ask someone to accompany you when you do this, such as a union representative (if you have one), or a senior member of staff.
  • Ask another work colleague to confront them on your behalf.
  • Explain to them in writing that their behaviour is unacceptable (make sure you keep a copy of the letter if you do this).
  • Keep a note of dates and times of each incident, and details of what happened and what was said.
  • Report the harassment to someone in authority. This can be important if you ever want to take legal action in future.
  • If the harasser touches you, it is sexual or indecent assault and you can report them to the police if you want to.
Sexual harassment is recognised as a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and is therefore against the law. Most organisations and companies have proper procedures for dealing with sexual harassment and complaints.

If your employer treats you badly or unfavourably because you complain about sexual harassment in the workplace, that is harassment too and you might be able to bring a case under the Equality Act 2010.

Accessing Support

You can contact your nearest Rape Crisis service or Citizens' Advice for support around experiences of sexual harassment.

A Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) provides services to victims/survivors of rape or sexual assault regardless of whether the survivor/victim chooses to reports the offence to the police or not. See a list of centres here.

Rape Crisis centres offer counselling to survivors of rape and sometimes to their families. Call 0808 802 9999 between 12 noon - 2.30pm and 7 - 9.30pm every day of the year for confidential support and/or information about your nearest services. Find your nearest Rape Crisis service here.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) provides a national freephone support line for adults who have suffered any type of abuse in childhood. They offer supportive and non-judgmental listening in calls of up to 30 minutes. Whatever questions you may have, however painful your memories may feel that day, or whatever it is you need to share about your abuse history, they are there to listen and support. Call 0808 801 0331 free from all landlines and mobiles. They’re open Monday to Thursday 10pm-9pm and Friday 10am-6pm.