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What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual act or activity.  It includes rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse (CSA), sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and ritual abuse.


Sexual violence can be perpetrated by a stranger or by someone known and even trusted, including a friend, colleague, family member, partner or ex-partner.


Sexual violence can happen to anyone.  It affects people of all backgrounds, ages and genders.   No-one ever deserves or asks for it to happen. 


Rape and Sexual Assault

In the UK, rape is legally defined as the penetration with a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent.


Penetration of another person's vagina, mouth or anus with any part of the body other than the penis or any object without their consent, is classed as sexual assault by penetration.  It can carry the same sentences as rape.


Sexual or indecent assault is defined as an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, inflicted upon someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.


Everyone has the right to say 'no' to sex, to withdraw or withhold their consent for any sexual act, on any occasion and under any circumstances, regardless of whether they've given consent to sex with that person in the past and regardless of whether they're in a relationship with the other person.


Rape and sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. It is 100% the responsibility of the perpetrator and it is only and always with the perpetrator that blame and guilt should lie. 


Child Sexual Abuse, grooming and child sexual exploitation

Child Sexual abuse (CSA) includes any sexual act with a child performed by an adult or older child.  It might include: sexual touching, penetration, or encouraging a child to watch or engage in any form of sexual activity.


Grooming a child is common practice amongst abusers who will spend time and effort insidiously compelling a child to do as she or he is told. Often bribes or threats are used to maintain compliance. Sometimes the child is given alcohol or drugs for the same purpose. Children can be manipulated by grooming into believing they are in a consensual, loving relationship when they are being abused and exploited.


Child sexual exploitation is a type of child sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited in order for the abuser or abusers to gain money and/or power. It usually involves grooming, both in person and/or online.


Child sexual abuse is never the fault of the child who has been abused. It is 100% the responsibility of the abuser and it is only and always with the abuser that blame and guilt should lie. 


CARA works with children and young people who have experienced child sexual abuse.  A large number of the adults who contact CARA are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, seeking support for what happened to them in their childhood.  


Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is internationally recognised as a human rights violation and is illegal in the UK.


FGM is usually carried out on girls aged between infancy and 15 years old and causes a range of long-term physical and psychological health problems. FGM has no health benefits.


Sexual harassment

The legal definition of sexual harassment is any type of unwanted contact of a sexual nature.


Sexual harassment can include: someone making sexually degrading comments or gestures, your body being stared or leered at, being subjected to sexual jokes or propositions, e-mails or text messages with sexual content, physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances and touching or someone displaying sexually explicit pictures in your space or a shared space, such as at work.


Ritual Abuse

Ritual abuse is highly organized abuse, which involves a group or groups of people, often in a pseudo religious context. 

The experiences of victims and survivors are that ritual abuse is often very sadistic (i.e. designed to cause a pain for the pleasure of abusers and observers) and misogynistic (woman-hating).  Infanticide (the murder of babies and children) is sometimes incorporated into the ceremonies, and animals may be included in the abuse and/or “sacrificed” too – these things are specifically designed to add to the level of terror experienced by survivors, and are particularly common images in the flashbacks they suffer later on.


There is a general level of denial/disbelief in society, that ritual abuse happens, and this also has enormous consequences for survivors.

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