Sexual assault is a criminal offence and contrary to the University’s Harassment and Bullying Procedure.
A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual, and the other person does not consent.
It involves all unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature and ranges from pinching, embracing, groping and kissing, to rape and serious sexual assault which involves penetration without consent.
A person must have the capacity to give free agreement. 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
Watch a video about Tea and Consent.
Dispelling myths about sexual violence
The Rape Crisis England & Wales website provides some examples of common sexual violence myths (as shown below). This list is not exhaustive, but it provides a starting point to challenging behaviours and attitudes.
Myth: Someone who's willingly drunk lots of alcohol or taken drugs shouldn't complain if they end up being raped or sexually assaulted.
Fact: In law, consent to sex is when someone agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. If a person is unconscious or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, they are unable to give their consent to sex. Having sex with a person who is incapacitated through alcohol or drugs is rape. No-one asks or deserves to be raped or sexually assaulted; 100% of the responsibility lies with the perpetrator. Everyone has the right to live their life free from the fear and experience of sexual violence.
Myth: When it comes to sex, women and girls sometimes 'play hard to get' and say 'no' when they really mean 'yes'.
Fact: Everyone has the legal right to say 'no' to sex and to change their mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact; if the other person doesn't stop, they are committing sexual assault or rape. When it comes to sex, we must respect the wishes of our sexual partner and believe what they tell us about what they do and don't want.
Myth: Men don't get raped and women don't commit sexual offences.
Fact: The majority of sexual assaults and rapes are committed by men against women and children, but women do perpetrate sexual violence. Often people who've been sexually assaulted or abused by a woman are particularly fearful that they will not be believed or that their experiences won't be considered 'as bad' as being raped by a man. This can make it especially difficult for these survivors to access services or justice.
Find out more
Citizens Advice: provides information on rape and sexual assault.
Surrey Police: provides further information on definitions of sexual assault, rape and consent.
Rape Crisis: provides information on the different types of sexual violence.