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- We will start with the definition provided by Rape Crisis UK:
Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual act or activity. There are many different kinds, including: rape, sexual abuse (including in childhood), sexual assault, sexual harassment, forced marriage, so-called honour-based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), trafficking, sexual exploitation ( and this includes child sexual exploitation), and others. Throughout this sway, you will find links that take you to additional resources, including more detail about individual types of sexual violence.
- The Sexual Offences Act (2003) is the primary piece of legislation that delineates specific sexual offences and their severity. The website of the Crown Prosecution Service (cps.gov.uk) offers a detailed explanation of the Act for further reading. As stated by the CPS, the acts purpose was to strengthen and update the law on sexual offences, whilst improving the protection of individuals from sexual offenders. There are, of course, other legislative frameworks that cover different criminal activities that the police and crown prosecution service may use as well.
- The law says that a person consents if they agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Freedom means not being threatened, nor under duress, nor acting out of fear. Capacity means having the cognitive ability to understand consent.
Consent does not have to be given verbally. Equally, not consenting does not have to be verbal. There is no requirement to say ‘no’ – freezing, signs of distress, or any indication of not wanting to participate should be taken as lack of consent.
If someone is unconscious, they cannot give consent.
If someone agrees to do something out of fear or duress, they have not consented.
- Advice from Rape Crisis England & Wales reads: If you said ‘yes’ to something because you were scared for your life or your safety or for the life or safety of someone you care about, or if you were asleep or unconscious or incapacitated through alcohol or drugs, for example, then you didn’t agree by choice and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
If you froze or your body ‘flopped’ or went limp through fear, if you didn’t say the word ‘no’ or weren’t able to speak at all through shock, if you didn’t shout or fight or struggle, it doesn’t mean you gave your consent for what happened to you.
If you are looking for a resource to explain consent, the Tea and Consent video, available on YouTube, is an option. If you have not seen the Tea and Consent video, you can watch it here.
- Sexual assault can happen anywhere, and can be perpetrated by anyone. As a professional, you cannot ever write off the possibility of sexual violence based on where the victim was, who they were with, or any personal characteristics of anyone involved. It is worth recognising that most sexual violence takes place in the home or somewhere familiar to the victim. Most sexual violence is perpetrated by men, but we have also seen serious cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by women, and by young people. No one particular community or group perpetrates sexual violence more than any other.
- The office of national statistics keeps records of sexual violence offences based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales. THE Crime Survey for England and Wales utilises self reporting amongst people ages 16-59, so it is one data set with limitations, but it does confirm that the majority of sexual assault does not get reported to the Police. So the following statistics are what we know about, and numbers could potentially be greater.
In the year to the end of March 2017, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated:
- 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to 3.4 million female and 631,000 male victims
- 3.1% of women (510,000) and 0.8% of men (138,000) aged 16 to 59 had experienced a sexual assault in the last year.
- Women with a long-term illness or disability were more likely to be victims of sexual assault in the last 12 months than those without a long-term illness or disability (5.3% compared with 2.7%).-
If you are interested in finding more about the statistics, please see the report Sexual offences in England and Wales: year ending March 2017, available at ONS.gov.uk
- Sexual Violence covers a wide range of offenses, including, but not limited to sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape within marriage, forced marriage, so called honour based violence, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. We don’t have time, in this presentation, to go into details about each of these types of sexual abuse, but here are links to a number of resources for follow up.
Child Sexual Abuse
- Child Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities. This does not have to involve a high level of violence, and it doesn’t matter if the child is aware of what is happening.
Activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. Abuse can include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at or producing sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse.
Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children
- Child Sexual Abuse includes abuse online; this includes things like inciting children to post self-created sexual imagery, and grooming for the purposes of exploitation.
For more information about online abuse, please see our sway, and know that another one is on the way.
If you become aware of child sexual abuse imagery online, please report it to the Internet Watch Foundation.
If you are aware of a child being abused online, follow your safeguarding procedures.
- The legal age of consent to any sexual activity is 16. This does not vary for gender identity or sexuality. This does not mean that children and young people will not be interested in or begin exploring sexual activity before the age of 16. The law also says that anyone under the age of 13 can never consent to sexual activity under any circumstances. This means that taking part in any type of sexual activity with someone younger than 13 is always a crime
- Children may be interested and may begin exploring sexual activity before the age of 16. The Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool is a valuable resource for assessing sexual behaviours in children. It can help to distinguish between behaviours that are considered to be healthy and developmentally appropriate (Green), and those that might be or are definitely considered to be unsafe or sexually harmful behaviours (amber or red). The tool offers potential scenarios set alongside the developmental ages of children and young people to show appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviours.
- And as we consider harmful sexual behaviours, we need to recognise that, according to Hacket et al, 2016, At least a third of all sexual offences against children in the UK involve other children as the perpetrators. It is very hard to get a full picture, but some evidence suggests that children and young people who are sexually abusive towards others are likely to have experienced considerable disruption in their own lives.
It is important to consider whether the child or young person displaying sexually harmful behaviours is in need of safeguarding themselves and how to safeguard other children they may come into contact with.
As such, it is necessary to take a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency co-ordinated approach to identify the problem, assess risk and put in place an effective management plan to protect the young person who sexually harms and all other children with whom they may live or have contact with. You will find the Protocol for responding to children and young people displaying sexually harmful behaviour on our website.
- Remember that, for many reasons, a child may not disclose sexual abuse.
They may think it is their fault.
The abuser may tell them to keep it secret or use threats or bribery to prevent them telling. Children may think they will not be believed.
A child who is being sexually abused may care for their abuser and worry about getting them into trouble.
It is important to respond to indicators that something is not right in a child’s world. The following come from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/spotting-signs-of-child-sexual-abuse/
IN particular, be alert to:
- Changes in behaviour – a child may start being aggressive, withdrawn, clingy, have difficulties sleeping, have regular nightmares or start wetting the bed.
- Avoiding the abuser – the child may dislike or seem afraid of a particular person and try to avoid spending time alone with them.
- Sexually inappropriate behaviour – children who have been abused may behave in sexually inappropriate ways or use sexually explicit language.
- Physical problems – the child may develop health problems, including soreness in the genital and anal areas or sexually transmitted infections, or they may become pregnant.
- Problems at school – an abused child may have difficulty concentrating and learning, and their grades may start to drop.
- Giving clues – children may also drop hints and clues that the abuse is happening without revealing it outright.
If you become aware of any of these indicators, be professionally curious. Do not assume that everything is alright.
- If you are concerned about a child, talk to your manager or safeguarding lead. You should work together to decide what steps need to be taken next, in line with your organisation’s safeguarding procedures
- If you think that a child is experiencing sexual abuse, you need to report a safeguarding concern. Guidance, forms and contact details are available on our website. If you click on this screenshot, it will take you away from this presentation, directly to the relevant section of the website.
- We also need to highlight Child Sexual Exploitation as a particular area of concern. From: Child sexual exploitation: Definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation (Department for Education, February 2017 we get the following definition:
Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.)
- When completing the statutory referral form, if you tick the area highlighting CSE/CCE it will ask you to complete a risk assessment and management tool specific to that risk. It is essential that this form is completed, as it alerts professionals to the level of risk experienced and opens up interventions specific to that.
- For more information and further resources, please see the relevant section of our website, where you will find the Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, the Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy, and the CSE disruption toolkit.
- There are a number of resources available on the NSPCC website as well. These include the PANTS resources for teaching young children about privacy. IF you haven’t see the PANTs video, you can watch it here: There are also resources to help teach young people with learning disabilities about relationships, sex and abuse.
Adults at Risk
- Women with a long-term illness or disability were more likely to be victims of sexual assault in the last 12 months than those without a long-term illness or disability (5.3% compared with 2.7%). There was no significant difference among men (1.0% compared with 0.8%)
- For adults, age is not a factor in consent; rather, we have to look at whether or not the adult has the mental capacity to consent to sexual activity.
Mental Capacity and Safeguarding is a course in its own right. If you are interested in reading further about what the court of protection has had to say about capacity to consent to sexual activity, and more recently an important distinction for what it means to have capacity to engage in sexual activity, this Community Care article is an interesting place to start, with further links.
- Statutory Adult safeguarding duties apply to an adult who:
- Has needs for care and support and;
- Is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; and
- As a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect.
- So, in the context of today’s discussion, if you believe that an adult has care and support needs due to disability, long-term illness, or another health condition, and you believe that those care and support needs are preventing the adult from protecting his or herself from sexual abuse, you should follow your organisations safeguarding procedures.
- If you are concerned that an adult at risk is being abused, talk to them about what they want to have happen.
Remember, wherever possible, you should speak to the adult about what they want to happen, and have their consent before reporting the concern to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
The referral form, along with contact details and guidance are available on our website.
- If you work with adults with learning disabilities, here are 2 important easy read resources:
A Self-Help Booklet for People who have gone through sexual violence or sexual abuse, from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership
The Changepeople.Org easy read guide to staying safe online
And a quick search using your favourite web browser should bring you to a number of easy-read guides to sex and relationships. If you find one that you think is particularly helpful, please share it with colleagues!
- With regards to Covid-19 and Sexual Violence, The government has released the following statement on their webpage:
The government acknowledges that recent measures announced to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19), such as the order to stay at home, can cause anxiety and other mental health challenges for those who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, and worsen the suffering of those who are currently experiencing or feel at risk of sexual violence and abuse. Sexual violence and abuse is unacceptable in any situation, no matter what stresses an individual is under.
For anyone who feels they are at risk of sexual violence or abuse, or is experiencing heightened mental health issues because of having previously survived sexual violence and abuse in the past, it is important to remember that there is help and support available to you. Support is also available to help perpetrators change their behaviour.
You can access the full statement, and see the support organisations they recommend at www.gov.uk, under the Coronavirus (Covid 19) menu.
- There are many unknowns that professionals are grappling with right now regarding the impact the Covid-19 lockdown may have had on people who experienced sexual violence in the past or experienced sexual violence during Lockdown.
ChildLine has reported an increase in calls regarding sexual abuse. The internet watch foundation has reported taking down record numbers of images. People of all ages have used the internet for education, work, socialising, and entertainment recently more than ever, increasing the opportunities for groomers to develop exploitive relationships
Sexual violence often goes unreported, but there is also a concern that even fewer victims will have sought support after experiencing sexual violence during lockdown, for fear of repercussions for breaching lockdown rules. Please reassure anyone who has experienced sexual violence during lockdown that the organisations who are there to support them will not be concerned about whether social distancing requirements were breached. Neither lockdown, nor current social distancing requirements give anyone the right to commit acts of sexual violence.
Please be aware of the organisations available to support people who have experienced sexual violence., and we will look at these over the following slides.
- Independent Sexual Violence Advocates-
ISVAs offer practical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, recently or in the past. They can help access other available support services to address both short- and long-term needs.
ISVAs will work with someone whether or not they intend to report what happened to the police They help access support for emotional needs and help with safety planning. They can help someone to understand the criminal justice process.
In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the ISVA service is provided by Cambridge and Peterborough Rape Crisis Partnership (CAPRCP). The adult ISVA service works with people aged 19 and over and the Children and Young People’s ISVA (ChISVA) supports survivors aged 18 and under.
- Sexual Assault Referral Centre
In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, we have a Sexual Assault Referral Centre based at Hinchingbrooke Hospital. It is called the Elms.
The Elms SARC offers free support and practical help to anyone in Cambridgeshire who has experienced sexual violence and/or sexual abuse.
The SARC offers a number of services including forensic examination, long-term support and pregnancy testing.
On the Elms website, you can find a number of downloadable resources, including guides written for children, written for young people, and an easy-read version.
The service is completely confidential and personal information is not required to receive support.
- Please reassure people: All services, including local Rape Crisis Helplines are still open
The Elms are still continuing to take self-referrals as well as police referrals
You will not be fined, ignored or blamed for what happened to you, even if you were in breach of social distancing requirements when the sexual violence occurred.
Wearing a mask may be triggering for victims of sexual violence. This may result in the survivor being unable to go out in situations where masks are mandatory.
The gov.uk: In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, where people are not expected to wear face coverings. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others…
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes (but is not limited to)…
if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress.
Whilst it is not a requirement to do so, there is a template available on the .gov website for an exemption image you can put on a mobile phone or carry as a card.