What is rape?


Current legal definition of rape

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (the Act) came into force on the 1st May 2004. The purpose of the Act was to strengthen and modernise the law on sexual offences, whilst improving preventative measures and the protection of individuals from sexual offenders. The Act extends the definition of rape to include the penetration by a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person. The 2003 Act also updates the law about consent and belief in consent.

The word ‘consent’ in the context of the offence of rape is now defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. A person consents if she or he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. The essence of this definition is the agreement by choice. The law does not require the victim to have physically resisted in order to prove a lack of consent. The question of whether the victim consented is a matter for the jury to decide, although the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considers this issue very carefully throughout the life of a case.


Current legal definition: Sexual assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, which is inflicted on someone without consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.

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Drug rape/date rape

Drug rape is when someone has sex with you, having knowingly given you a substance to make you vulnerable and unable to take care of yourself properly. Any substances that makes you become incapable of saying “no” or looking after yourself can be called “date rape drugs”.

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What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse of children can happen in many different ways: Sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed; Assault by penetration, including rape or penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body; Encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity.

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