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Please be aware that the following material contains information that you may find distressing. It is important to ensure you are in a place that feels safe to you before reading and that you feel able to access support should you need it, including our helpline.
I have just been raped
Please read our Recent Rape and Sexual Assault page about what to do next including medical care, keeping evidence, and getting immediate help. This document is available within our Support Documents section.
Forensic Evidence & Medical Assistance
Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) are specialist medical centres for men and women who have suffered from a sexual offence. They can check you out medically and also take swabs to test for forensic evidence. You can go there yourself (you can decide at a later date if you want to report the crime) or if you report to the police they will accompany you there if the rape happened within the previous 7 days. Search for your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre through the NHS list provided here.
You can also contact our helpline to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, what your choices are and where you could go to get the help you deserve.
What is Rape?
A man commits rape if he has sexual intercourse with a person without their consent and without reasonable belief in their consent. Only a man can commit rape but a survivor can be a woman or a man. To be found guilty of a rape the prosecution must show that the defendant ‘reasonably believed’ you were not consenting to sex. The onus of proving the sex was consensual is on the man accused of rape. He has to prove that he took steps to ensure you wanted to have sex with him. This means it is not up to you to have said no or to have tried to fight. Consent has to be actively sought. Rape is a serious crime and the assailant can potentially go to prison for life.
The legal definition of rape for England and Wales is:
- Penile penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth without a reasonable belief in consent.
Consent is defined as:
- Agreeing by choice, and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
Therefore if a woman is for instance totally drunk, drugged, is 12 years old or under, has a limited mental capacity, is forced, imprisoned, coerced, terrified, asleep, or in a coma she is not capable of being able to give consent (this list is not exhaustive).
Children under 13
Sexual intercourse with a child 12 years old and under is automatically rape whether the child believes they consented or not. Legally children 12 years old and under cannot give consent to sexual intercourse. This is true regardless of what the perpetrator has told you, no matter what you said, what you did, how your body responded, if you were 12 years old or under this is automatically classified as rape.
Other crimes of sexual violence include:
- Assault by Penetration: Your anus or vagina being penetrated by any part of a person’s (male or female) body or by any other instrument and the penetration is sexual and you do not consent to it.
- Sexual Assault: Being intentionally touched by someone (male or female) in a sexual way and not consenting to it.
- Causing a person to engage in sexual activity: being intentionally caused to engage in sexual activity without consenting.
What does the law mean in practice?
- It means that if a man has ever penetrated you without you wanting him to, it is rape.
- It means you don’t need to have said no or to have put up a fight.
- It means that it doesn’t matter if you had consented to sex in exchange for money; you still have the right to say no to any sex act or to change your mind at any point.
- It means the perpetrator is innocent until proven guilty but he will need to show that he took steps to ensure that he was sure you wanted to have sex with him.
- It means that consent is not given freely when force or pressure or threats are used, like “if you loved me you would”.
- It means that it doesn’t matter what your relationship to him is.
- It means there is no such thing as ongoing consent.
- It means you can agree to some sexual acts and not others.
- It means you have the right to change your mind or stop at any time either before or during sex.
What is consent?
- Consent is defined by law as agreeing by choice and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice. There are lots of circumstances where you may feel as though you ‘agreed’ to sex but were you able to make that choice without coercion, fear, intimidation or force? Were you drunk or drugged? In all these cases you may have been unable to agree by choice. Choice means you could say yes or you could say no and nothing bad or good would happen depending on what you decided. You made the choice because you wanted to.
- Consensual sex means both people are legally old enough and agree to engage in intercourse by choice.
- Consensual sex means both people have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
- Consensual sex means agreeing to sex without intimidation, fear, coercion or force.
- Consensual sex means you were not deceived into believing that the actions had another purpose such as a medical examination or deceived into believing that the person you were having sex with was someone else, such as your partner.
- Consensual sex is contextual. If you have consented to sex with a condom and someone continues to have sex with you without a condom or deceives you into believing he is wearing one when he is not, you have not consented.
- Consensual sex means being physically and mentally able to give consent.
If he continues without your consent he has chosen to commit rape.
Rape Impacts and Responses
There is no normal way to respond to such a life-threatening event. If you are blaming yourself in any way regarding how you reacted (this is often the case), then try to put the blame on the rapist where it belongs, and try to believe that how you responded then and now is a natural reaction to an unnatural trauma.
Post Traumatic Stress
You could be feeling some or all of the following:
- Replaying what happened in your mind, over and over
- Flashbacks: feeling it is happening right now
- Fear of people, places, of crying and not being able to stop, of anything
- Helpless and vulnerable
- Shame, humiliation, blaming yourself
- On guard and alert to danger around you
- Expending a lot of energy trying not to think about what happened
- Feeling numb and not quite present
To try and cope you may:
- Drink alcohol more than you used to
- Take drugs to numb the pain
- Self injure to transfer the pain from the inside to the outside of your body
- Keep yourself very, very busy
- Stay inside where you may feel safer
- Avoid all intimate relationships
- Use anger to channel your feelings of helplessness
All of the above are ‘normal’ reactions to this terrifying crime.
Contact our helpline to talk about how you’re feeling, what your choices are and how to ensure you feel supported through what can be a very difficult time. 0808 802 9999.
If you are thinking about reporting to the Police and need some information or support call our Independent Sexual Violence Advocate on 0208 683 3311.
For more information on common responses and impacts, as well as coping strategies, please see our Support Documents.