The Reality of Sexual Assault!

What is Sexual Assault?

“Sexual assault is an act in which a person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.”

Introduction:

It is commonly thought that in most cases of rape, the offender is a stranger. The truth is the majority of people who commit rape know their victims and, in some cases, are relatives, friends or work colleagues.

Sexual assault happens to people of all genders and sexualities but, about 92 percent of victims are female and 8 percent male.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

What are the different types of sexual abuse?

  • Meaning of ‘Sexual’
  • When is a Sexual Assault Committed?
  • Assault by Penetration
  • Rape
  • Consent
  • Penile Penetration
  • Penetration of the Vagina, Anus or Mouth
  • Marital Rape

Meaning of ‘Sexual’

The law does not provide ‘sexual’ with a definition but rather an approach to determining the question as to whether there was an assault of penetration or sexual assault.

The test provided by the section is objective in order to determine whether the touching is obviously sexual regardless of the circumstances for example:

Was the touching either: 

  1. Obviously sexual or,
  2. Sexual by virtue of circumstances or purpose?

When is a Sexual Assault Committed?

Sexual assault is committed if:

  • He/she intentionally touches another person
  • The touching is sexual,
  • The person does not consent to the touching, and
  • He/she does not reasonably believe that she/he consents.

Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps he/she has taken to ascertain whether the victim consents.

Assault by Penetration:

Assault by Penetration can be committed by both males and females. A person commits an offence if:

  • He intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person (B) with a part of his body or anything else,
    • the penetration is sexual,
    • B does not consent to the penetration, and
    • A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether the victim consents.

Rape:

Rape is generally regarded as the most grave of all the sexual offences and is usually punished severely.

The general definition of rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent.

A person has committed an act of rape if:

  • He intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
  • The victim does not consent to the penetration, and
  • He does not reasonably believe that the victim consents.

Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps he has taken to ascertain whether the victim consents.

Consent:

Sexual consent is where a person has the ability and freedom to agree to sexual activity therefore, for rape to have occurred the victim must not have consented to the penetration.

Some examples of non-consent:

  • The other person is not participating freely and readily.
  • You have not confirmed with the other person verbally and have not checked their body language.
  • The other person is on drugs or too drunk to make decisions.
  • The other person is asleep or unconscious.
  • The other person has the right to withdraw their consent at any time. Once consent is withdrawn you must stop engaging in sexual activity immediately.

It is worth noting that, other things can also affect a person’s capacity to consent. Examples include a serious mental health problem, learning disability or a head injury.

Penile Penetration:

  • As is above the definition of rape is restricted to penetration by the penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of the victim.
  • While the offence can only be committed by a man a woman is capable of being an accomplice depending on the incident occurred.
  • Following common law sexual intercourse is regarded as being a continuing act. This means that consent can be withdrawn at any time before completion.

Penetration Of the Vagina, Anus or Mouth:

  • The law recognises that forced oral sex is ‘as horrible, as demeaning and as traumatising as other forms of forced penile penetration’.
  • The law also defines the vagina as including the vulva.

Marital Rape

A Husband can be found guilty of raping his wife as the wife is entitled to revoke her consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances.

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This Article is written by Our COO
Miss Katherine Hannigan.