Sexual violence is any kind of unwanted, non-consensual behaviour, touching or act of a sexual nature or harassment within or outside a relationship.  This is a non-legal, all-encompassing term, that includes, but is not restricted to the sexual offences described in law of rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and being coerced into sexual acts (Sexual Offences Act 2003).

Sexual misconduct is the term used within the context of an organisation such as the University of Sussex to refer to any act of sexual violence about which a formal complaint or report is made to either Student Discipline or Human Resources. This would also include any contravention of our Relationships Policy.

Sexual violence and Sexual misconduct are both over-arching, umbrella terms used to describe a wide range of non-consensual behaviours.

Consent
The age of consent (agreement) to any form of sexual activity in the UK is 16 regardless of gender, sexual orientation or culture and whether the sexual activity is between people of the same or different gender.  It is an offence for a person to intentionally touch another person sexually without reasonable belief that they consented.  Touching covers all physical contact, whether with a part of the body or anything else, or through clothing.

Consenting to one form of sexual activity does not mean imply consent to any other e.g., kissing doesn’t mean you’ve agreed to anything else.

Consent can be withdrawn at any point and at any time.

Consenting on one occasion does not imply consent at another.

Consent cannot be legally given if a person is drunk or high on drugs.

Watch videos and read articles about consent on our consent web page.
 
It is an offence for a person aged 18 or over intentionally to behave in certain sexual ways in relation to a child aged under 18, where the person aged 18 or over is in a position of trust (defined as looking after a child aged under 18 who is receiving education at an educational institution). A person “looks after” a child in this context if he/she is regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or is in sole charge of a child or children ( Sexual Offences Act 2003  sections 16 to 19).

Rape 
Rape is a criminal offence and defined under section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.  The offence requires the penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth, by a penis, without consent.  The requirement of penile penetration means that, in law, rape can only be committed by a man.  Both men and women can be raped.  If a woman forces a man to penetrate her this would not be rape but charged as another sexual offence.  A man can rape a woman by putting his penis in her mouth without consent.  If a woman performs oral sex on a man without his consent, this would not be rape but charged as another sexual offence. 

Sexual assault by penetration 
Sexual assault by penetration is a criminal offence and defined under section 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.  The offence can be committed by a man or a woman and requires the penetration of the vagina or anus by a body part (such as fingers or tongue) or anything else (such as a bottle or vibrator) without consent.  Thus, a woman who penetrates another woman’s vagina with her fingers without consent would be charged with this offence.   Note that unlike rape, this offence does not include penetration of the mouth. 
 
Sexual assault 
Sexual assault is a criminal offence and defined under section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.  The offence can be committed by a man or a woman and requires touching without consent where the touching is sexual.  For example, the unwanted touching of a woman’s breasts or a person’s genital area or buttocks, or unwanted kissing would be a sexual assault.  The touching can be through clothing or anything else (such as a bedsheet) and includes touching done with any part of the body or anything else.  The term sexual assault is sometimes wrongly used as a generic term to include or indicate other sexual offences. 

Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature.  To be sexual harassment, the unwanted behaviour must have either: 
  •  violated someone's dignity, whether it was intended or not 
  • created a hostile environment for them, whether it was intended or not 
 It is a prohibited conduct under the Equality Act 2010, for which redress lies in the civil courts. 

Examples of sexual harassment include:
  • Verbal harassment such as whistling, catcalling, sexual comments, sexual innuendo, telling sexual jokes and stories, spreading rumour about a person’s sex life
  •  nonverbal harassment such as looking someone up and down, displaying pictures of a sexual nature, sending emails containing sexual content, making sexual gestures, and asking for sex
  • The placement, dissemination, or circulation of any unwelcome written or graphic material (in hard copy or electronic form) that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of gender or gender identity. 
Sexual harassment involves the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.   Sexual violence and harassment affects people of all ages, genders, cultures and sexual orientations. 

Sexual harassment Under section 26 (2) of the Equality Act 2010, is defined as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating the recipient’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.  It is a prohibited conduct under the Equality Act 2010, for which redress lies in the civil courts.

Some forms of sexual harassment may overlap with other criminal offences such as those relating to sexual offences, harassment, stalking, and revenge porn.

What to do if you have just been raped or sexually assaulted (students)
What to do if you have just been raped or sexually assaulted (staff)
What support is available for you as a student?
What support is available for you as a member of staff?





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