Something happened but I don’t know if it ‘counts’ as sexual violence?
Sexual violence is a general term used to describe any sexual activity or act (including online) that was unwanted, or where there was pressure, coercion or force.
It does not have to be physically violent. Consent is something that can be withdrawn at any time – including during a sexual act – and this also means that just because you have consented to something before, doesn’t mean that anyone can expect that of you in the future. The majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by someone known to the victim, very often a partner or ex-partner.
People often think that they know how they would react if they were assaulted but the truth is that nobody knows how their body would respond, and you don’t get to choose.
When we are in danger our brain sends powerful signals to our body; many survivors describe freezing and feeling completely unable to move, cry out or fight back. This response is just as normal and natural as any other.
There are also times when the fear or threat of further violence makes it less safe to fight and resist. Not fighting back does not mean that you agreed, or that it was your fault.
If something has happened to you that you feel uncomfortable or unsure about then you are welcome to reach out to Rape Crisis.
I’m scared people will think it’s my fault
There are no circumstances where any of this was your fault.
No matter what happened or when, nobody ever asks to be raped or assaulted. You are in no way to blame and you did not deserve for this to happen. The only person/people responsible for sexual violence are those who choose to commit it.
We live in a society that very often wrongly and harmfully blames victims of assault or considers them partly responsible for what has happened. This can be because people want to believe that if they behave differently then it won’t happen to them, but it can happen to anyone.
It doesn’t matter if or how much you drank, what happened was not your fault. Similarly, it does not matter what you were wearing or if you kissed/were flirting with the person before. Consenting to one thing doesn’t mean consenting to everything, and you have the right to withdraw that consent at any time including during sex. Your body is yours and yours alone.
No-one should blame you – responsibility lies only with the person/people who chose to assault you.
I don’t know whether to report or not
For many people this is a big and difficult decision to make. It’s entirely your choice – no-one should pressure you or tell you what to do.
If the assault was recent (in the last 7 days) it is possible to book a forensic medical examination that can capture and preserve any evidence so that you can decide to report and use this evidence at a later point.
There is no time limit around reporting. You can still report something - and access Rape Crisis support - even if it happened a long time ago.
If you are thinking about reporting – whether it happened recently or a long time ago – and would like to talk through options then the Rape Crisis Helpline or an Advocacy Worker at your local Rape Crisis Centre can help. An Advocacy Worker can also be there for you at every step of the criminal justice process if you do decide to report. They can be with you when you give any statements to the Police and come with you if your case is taken to court.
I don’t feel safe
It’s very common not to feel safe after experiencing sexual violence. Lots of people describe feeling jumpy, on edge and fearful.
It may be that you are still living
with the perpetrator, or still have to see them in your daily life and this can
be really difficult to navigate. Depending on the situation, there might be
different options available to you, such as legal protection orders. These
include Exclusion Orders, Non-Harassment orders and Domestic Abuse
If someone has contacted you repeatedly (two times or more) when you do not want them to and it causes you fear or alarm, this is stalking and it is against the law. Stalking can include things that other people might not see as threatening like sending flowers. The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre has more information on stalking here and has developed FollowItApp, an app that records incidents and stores them safely.
Being raped, sexually assaulted or abused can have a very real and significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of those who experience it. It can be isolating and many survivors can feel anxious and/or depressed, with some also experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks. These are common – but very challenging – responses to trauma. It may be helpful to know that there are some useful techniques that can help in the short term. You can read more about these in our Support resources. There is also specialist support available.
You deserve support and do not need to cope with this alone.
Who can talk to Rape Crisis?
takes calls from people of any gender or sexuality, no matter what happened or
Many people call the helpline because they need or want to speak to someone understanding and get support. This might be because of something that happened recently, a long time ago, or something that is still ongoing.
Our helpline workers can offer immediate emotional support and some techniques and strategies that might help. They can also give you information about, and help you to contact, local Rape Crisis Centres or signpost to alternative support.
We often hear from partners, family and friends looking for advice on how to support someone, but also to help them cope with what has happened to their loved one, and we welcome calls from professionals seeking specialist advice on best practice, and/or guidance on how to respond.
It’s common to feel uncertain or nervous about contacting the helpline, especially if you are a survivor. Just know that we believe you, we will never judge you or tell you what to do and when you are ready, we are here.
If you would prefer to reach out to local support, you can find your closest Rape Crisis Centre here.
I’m worried about someone I know
It can be hard if you know or think that someone you know may have experienced sexual violence. People often worry about not knowing where to start or saying the wrong thing.
One of the most common fears that survivors have is that they will not be believed, so a really good place to start in supporting someone you know is to tell them that you believe them, it was not their fault and that more support is available.
Avoid asking any questions that may make someone feel like they could have made different choices to prevent what has happened to them; no matter the circumstances it was not their fault.
Don’t push them into making any decisions – like reporting – or tell them what to do, it’s really important that they are in control of what happens next.
Our website has more information and resources here and the helpline is also available for friends, families and professionals looking to support someone else.
I’m worried about a young person
If you are concerned about the safety or wellbeing of a young person then it’s important not to ignore those feelings. What you do next very much depends on the context of the situation.
You can speak with the Rape Crisis Scotland helpline to explore your concerns and help establish next steps – if you do share any information that indicates a child or young person is at risk then the helpline will be legally obliged to share that information with the relevant authorities.
I don’t know who to talk to – I’m not coping
The most important thing to remember is you are not alone. Whatever has happened and however you are feeling, you do not have to go through this by yourself.
Our helpline is open 6pm – midnight every night. Helpline staff and volunteers are there to listen to you and support you, they won’t tell you what to do or judge you. It’s completely up to you how much or little you tell them about what has happened, and no-one will pressure you.
- Call: 08088 01 03 02
- Text: 07537 410 027
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The helpline can refer you to your local Rape Crisis Centre – or other services – if you would like them to, but they can also just be a listening ear for you to talk about how you are feeling.
It might also be helpful to tell someone that you trust what has happened. It’s very common for survivors to be scared that people – especially people they love – won’t believe them or that they might think that it was their fault.
Often people will try to be very supportive, but unfortunately people do not always understand or respond in the way that we might hope, and this can be very painful. Sometimes it can take time, but remember you deserve to be listened to, believed and supported. At Rape Crisis that is what we will always do.