Sexual assault is when a person, male or female, touches another person without the person’s consent. This means any physical contact, whether with a part of their body, with another object, or through clothing.
Many of us imagine sexual assault as a violent struggle in a dark, public place-by night in a park or an alley. It can be like this. Far more often, though, it can be a grope on a crowded train or in a nightclub. Or it is hidden behind closed doors-in bedrooms, homes or offices. It might happen at home, work or university.
It happens to people of all ages and genders, no matter their race or sexuality. It can be done by anyone. We tend to think of sexual assault perpetrators as obscure men, strangers lurking in the darkness. This is rarely the case. Most victims know the people who assault them, whether acquaintances, colleagues, friends, or family. And while it is true that the majority of perpetrators are men, some are women.
Sexual assault is always the perpetrator’s fault. This might sound strange to say, because it seems so obvious. But think about it. When you hear about sexual assault, you often also hear questions like: “What was she wearing?” “Did she lead him on?” “Was he drunk?” Questions like these often leave victims feeling responsible for their assault. It makes it seem as if there was something they could have done to prevent it.
This is never true. All of us are free to wear what we like, talk how we please, and drink if the fancy takes us. Sexual assault perpetrators are responsible for their own actions. Their crime is never acceptable. Our bodies are our own. There are no circumstances where you lose the right to control your body. You don’t lose it when you fall asleep. You still have it when you’re drunk. Even marriage can’t erase it.
You can learn more about sexual assault and the law by visiting:www.legislation.gov.ukThe Law on Sex in Northern Ireland