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What is rape and sexual assault?

Rape and sexual assault are types of sexual violence which can have a devastating effect. It happens when someone does not consent to a sexual act.

You can be raped or sexually assaulted by a stranger or someone you know. It can happen to anyone – women, men and children.

It may have happened recently or a long time ago. It can happen once or often.

Rape and sexual assault affect everyone differently. There are legal definitions for these crimes which are very precise – what you've experienced may not fit the legal definitions but can be just as upsetting and frightening.

Read these definitions on

Staying safe

If you're worried about your safety, you should tell the police.

Rape and sexual abuse are crimes and the police take them seriously. The most important thing to remember is that rape or sexual abuse are not your fault.

You may be able to take legal action to help make sure your attacker stays away from you.

Your rights

As a victim of crime, you have rights. The Victims' Code for Scotland sets out these rights and who to contact for help and advice.

Helpful guidance

This information pack includes advice on:

  • practical things to think about after an assault
  • how rape and sexual assault can affect people
  • how rape and sexual assault is investigated and prosecuted
  • meanings and court procedures
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