Rape and other forms of abuse

What is rape?

The definition of rape was changed by law which came into force on 1 May 2004. What was previously known as ‘rape’ has been replaced by the criminal offence of ‘sexual assault by penetration’.

What is sexual assault by penetration?

It is an offence for someone, male or female, intentionally to penetrate the vagina or anus of another person with a part of their body or anything else, without their consent.

The word “consent” in this context is defined in law. A person consents if he or she agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. The law does not require the victim to have resisted physically in order to prove a lack of consent.

A boy or girl under the age of 16 cannot consent in law to penetration.

What is sexual assault and indecent assault?

It is an offence to touch someone else with sexual intent if the other person has not consented to such touching and if the person committing the offence does not reasonably believe that the other person consented.

What is indecent exposure?

It is an offence for someone to expose their genitals if they intend that someone else will see them and if they intend to cause that person ‘alarm or distress’.

What is grooming?

It is an offence to befriend a child on the Internet or by other means and meet or intend to meet the child with the intention of abusing them.

Child abuse (Prostitution and Pornography)

Child Pornography – Material which is sexual in nature and depicts a person under the age of 18.

Child Prostitution – A child in the profession of performing sexual acts for money

An offence of child abuse under Sexual Offences Act 2003 includes:

  • buying sexual services of a child,
  • causing, encouraging, arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography, and
  • controlling any of the activities of a child involved in prostitution or pornography.