Sexual abuse and violence support for students

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Health Assured team

09 December 2022

Sexual abuse and sexual violence awareness week will take place from the 6th to the 12th of February. This national week encourages organisations and individuals across the UK to start the conversation around this traumatic issue.

Statistics show that 85,000 women and 12,000 men are sexually abused each year.

And this only includes reported cases, so there may be many more. It can be hard to open up if you’ve experienced sexual abuse or violence, but there are services out there that can help.

What is sexual abuse and sexual violence?

Sexual violence and sexual abuse refer to any sexual contact that happens without a person’s consent. This means that the person didn’t actively agree to what happened.

Sexual violence can refer to:

Rape – when a person is forced, pressured, bullied or manipulated into having sex without consent.

Sexual harassment – any unwanted verbal, physical or emotional behaviour of a sexual nature. e.g. sexual comments, being looked at in a sexual way or receiving sexual messages without consent.

Sexual assault – any sexual act that a person did not consent to or is forced into against their will. 

Sexual violence or abuse can happen at any age. It is important to remember that sexual violence is a crime and can be reported to the police, even if there are no signs of physical injuries.

Help after sexual abuse and violence 

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or violence, please know that it is not your fault—no matter how or when the incident occurred. All sexual violence is a crime. But you don’t have to report it to the police if you don’t want to.

It’s an extremely difficult situation to go through, and it’s likely going to take some time for you to process what’s happened.

You can get support from a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). SARCs provide medical, practical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted or abused. Help is available 24 hours a day from specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for you.

If you decide to report the assault to the police, try not to wash your clothes, as this may provide some evidence. If you think you might want to go ahead with this route, the sooner a forensic medical examination takes place, the better.

You can find your closest Rape and Sexual Assault Referral Centre on the NHS website.

Reach out to your university or college 

Most universities and colleges will have student support in place where you can go to speak to someone—be that a counsellor, pastoral advisor or a welfare and women’s service. If not, they might offer a Student Assistance Programme, through which you can access confidential counselling support.

Find further support from the organisations below 

Rape Crisis England and Wales – Free live chat providing emotional support to victims of rape

Survivors UK – An online helpline and counselling for men

Victim Support – Confidential advice after experiencing a crime

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