What constitutes a sexual assault?

Posted 04/04/24

What constitutes a sexual assault?

Written by Sarah Howard

Sexual assault is a term used to describe a range of non-consensual sexual activities involving any form of unwanted contact or behaviour inflicted upon an individual without their explicit consent. Sexual assault affects individuals of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, and any sexual activity without explicit consent is considered sexual assault. Sexual assault within marriage and relationships can occur and what separates sex, or a gesture of affection, from sexual assault is consent. 

Consent must be given freely, informed, and be ongoing throughout the sexual encounter. It cannot be assumed or coerced and the person must be capable of agreeing to sex (not asleep, unconscious or under the influence of drugs or alcohol). Consent means agreeing to what’s happening by choice and having the freedom and ability to make or change that choice at any point. Furthermore, in the UK the age of consent is 16 (the legal age when people can engage in sexual activity). This law is there to protect children from abuse or exploitation.

Whilst the legal definition of rape refers to the penetration of another’s vagina, anus, or mouth with a penis without the other person’s consent, there are various forms of sexual assault all of which are serious. These include assault by penetration with any part of the body other than a penis, or by using an object, without the person’s consent. Sexual assault also includes non-penetrative physical acts over or under clothing. The sexual offence may be a single incident or there may be a pattern of abuse of a number of sexual assaults.

An approach from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

Victims of sexual assault often experience physical, emotional, and psychological trauma all of which have a long-lasting impact on their life and can take a long time to recover from. Under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, as well as compensation for the sexual assault, compensation can also be awarded for victims who have sustained physical/internal injuries, disabling mental illness, sexually transmitted infection, or pregnancy, as a direct result of their being the victim of a sexual offence. Understanding the process of making a sexual assault claim through the #CICA is vital to ensuring that victims receive the support and compensation they deserve.

For further information and advice regarding Criminal Injuries Compensation, get in touch with our specialist team on 0800 138 6061.

Want to know more? Consider reading "Claiming for psychological injuries under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme"

APIL, Lexcel, Personal Injury - The Law Society Accredited, APIL Brain Injury Specialist
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