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What is sexual assault? 
 
A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent. 
 
It involves all unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature and examples might include unwanted pinching, embracing, kissing or touching of intimate body parts; to rape and serious sexual assault which involves penetration without consent. There are links at the bottom of this article which will provide you with further information about sexual assault and what it means.
 
Sexual assault is a criminal offence and contrary to the Equality Act 2010, which defines specific types of discrimination, and the University’s Student Disciplinary Procedure (Non-Academic) and Dignity at Work Policy.  For staff, sexual assault is also contrary to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Employment Policy
 
We also offer support articles in relation to sexual harassment
 
Consent 
 
Sexual consent means a person willingly agrees to have sex or engage in a sexual activity – and they are free and able to make their own decision. Making sure you get and give consent before having any kind of sex with another person (or people) really matters. Sex without consent is rape or sexual assault.  It's also important to recognise that just because you have consented to one thing doesn’t mean you have consented to something else, and it’s completely OK to say no or stop at any point if you don’t want to continue. 

A person must have the capacity to give consent. Capacity is based on the person: 
  • Being the right age 
  • Being sober 
  • Having the mental and physical ability to freely agree 
  • Not being threatened or afraid of harm 
  • Not being detained against their will 

Sexual consent can sometimes be misunderstood and a number of myths surrounding sexual consent are commonplace in society.  Brook, a sexual health and wellbeing charity, debunks some of the most common myths. These include:

  • Sex in a relationship is always consensual.  It’s always up to you if you want to have sex and consent must be sought and given every time. You can’t assume that someone wants to have sex at any given time – you have to ask and listen to the response;
  • You only need consent to have penetrative sex. Consent applies to all sexual activity, including kissing and touching;
  • A drunk or high person can consent to sex. This can be true, and it is possible to negotiate consent when you have been drinking or taking drugs; but not when you are too drunk or high to know what is happening. Having sex or sexual contact with someone when they are too drunk or high to understand what is going on is sexual assault or rape, as they cannot consent;
  • Men can't be raped.  In law, rape is defined as non-consensual penetration with a penis: so a man can be raped by another man. However, it is important to recognise that this definition can feel restrictive and unhelpful to survivors of sexual violence. Lots of people use the word ‘rape’ to apply to some forms of sexual assault, usually any form of sexual assault by penetration, and non-consensual vaginal or anal sex. 
  • People who flirt or wear revealing clothing are 'asking for it.' There is no excuse for sexual violence and it is never the survivor’s fault. Whether or not someone is flirting, looks attractive or has laughed at the other person’s jokes is irrelevant when it comes to consent. It doesn’t matter how long you have flirted with someone, how attractive you think they are or how much you think they fancy you – someone flirting with you or looking attractive does not mean that they consent to having sex with you. 
The following resources, along with the sites listed under the Find out more section, can help you explore and better understand consent:

Tea and Consent        
A video about consent: https://youtu.be/oQbei5JGiT8 
Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios

Cycling Through Consent
A video about consent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JwlKjRaUaw
Produced by Western University, Canada

Meg-John and Justin produce podcasts discussing sex and healthy relationships.

BISH is a blog and guide to sex and relationships for anyone over 14.
 
Find out more 
  • Citizens Advice: Provide information on rape and sexual assault .
  • West Midlands Police: Provide further information on definitions of sexual assault, rape and consent. 
  • Rape Crisis: Provide information on the different types of sexual violence. 
  • Rape and Sexual Violence Project (Birmingham & Solihull Rape Crisis): Offers confidential support for children and adults of all genders who have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse. 
  • Brook: Provide information on sexual health and wellbeing including consent; relationships; sexuality; contraception;  and STI's.
  • Galop: Galop provides support for members of the LGBT+ community who are victims/survivors of sexual violence and abuse.
  • Umbrella: Provide free sexual health services for Birmingham and Solihull, and offer a range of advice and guidance on sexual health and wellbeing. Umbrella also partner with the Rape and Sexual Violence Project to deliver an Abuse Survivors Clinic.
  • The NHS also offers guidance on seeking help after rape and sexual assault.
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