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Sexual violence

Sexual violence

If you’ve experienced any kind of sexual assault, abuse or harassment, either recently or in the past, it’s important for you to know that it was not your fault, and you can talk to us. It is never acceptable to be forced or pressurised into doing something you don’t want to do, and we are here to help you.

Talking things through confidentially with someone you can trust can be really helpful. We will provide a safe space to listen to you, without judgement, and we can let you know what support is available. We will always be led by you and there is no pressure to talk about or do anything you don’t want to.

Please get in touch with us by email at:

In an emergency or if you are at risk call 999

You can also talk to Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services or The Womens Centre Cornwall (a Rape Crisis centre) . They offer anonymous, confidential and professional support to people who have experienced rape, sexual assault and abuse. They provide face to face support, a telephone helpline and email support. You will find all their contact details on their website.

Understanding Sexual Violence

The University of Exeter is an inclusive community, where everyone has the right to be treated with respect. All forms of sexual violence go against all we stand for and will not be tolerated. If you've experienced or witnessed this, we encourage you to contact us to get the support you might need.

Sexual violence is often discussed in the media, and it affects many people. It is important that you know what it means and that you can easily recognise if you, or someone you know has been impacted. There is support available across the University and from external agencies, whether this is a recent experience or from the past.

Sexual violence is a term we use to describe any sexual activity or act that happened without consent. It includes rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse and sexual harassment and it can happen to anyone and can be committed by any person, no matter what their relationship to the victim.


If someone has forced, pressurised, bullied, threatened or manipulated you into having sex with them without your consent this is rape. It is defined in UK law as the intentional penetration with a penis of another person's vagina, anus or mouth without their consent. It is also rape if someone removes a condom without the other person’s consent during sex – what is commonly known as ‘stealthing’.

Sexual assault                                                                                                                               

This is defined in UK law as sexual touching of another person without their consent, with any part of the body or with anything else. This includes unwanted kissing or touching or being forced to perform sexual acts. In law, penetration of another person’s vagina or anus with any part of the body other than the penis, or with any object, without their consent is defined as ‘assault by penetration’.

Sexual harassment      

This is any unwanted physical, verbal and emotional behaviour of a sexual nature. It can take lots of different forms and can include your body being stared at, being sent messages with sexual content, someone making sexually degrading comments, jokes or gestures, persistent pestering for dates or sex, being subjected to sexual jokes or propositions and offers of rewards for sexual favours.

This is not a full list so just because it is not here does not mean it is not sexual violence.

What is consent?

Consent is when the people involved in a sexual activity agree to take part by choice. They also need to have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. We all have the right to not agree to any type of sexual activity and we also have the right to change our minds at any time, or consent to doing one sexual thing with someone but not another.

Sexual activity without consent is rape, sexual assault or harassment.

Consent is not:

  • Feeling pressurised, bullied or threatened into doing something you don’t want to do
  • Someone carrying on with sexual activity despite your non-verbal cues - for example, if you pull away, freeze or seem uncomfortable
  • Someone having sex with you when you’re asleep or unconscious
  • Someone assuming you want to have sex because of what you’re wearing or doing i.e. wearing a short skirt, accepting a drink or flirting
  • Someone assuming that because you had sex with them before, you want to have sex again
  • Someone removing a condom during sex, when you only agreed to sex when using one

If you think you have been raped or experienced any kind of sexual assault or harassment you can talk to us or get support from a number of external agencies. See 'Help and Support' below.

If you have experienced any kind of sexual violence there are a variety of options for support and advice within the University and externally.

Talk to us

If you want emotional and practical support for a recent or historic incident but really don’t know where to turn, you can contact the Welfare Team who will help direct you to the right support. You can contact us by email at

We can help with signposting and support that is best for you and may include:

  • Support from our Wellbeing Services
  • Arranging transport to SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre), the Police or to hospital if appropriate
  • Review of your safety arrangements on campus
  • Academic support (including mitigation)
  • Informing other university staff about your situation on your behalf
  • Referral to specialist external agencies
  • Advice and support if you would like to consider or make a report to Student Cases

For Cornwall students, please contact the Wellbeing Service at FXU.

You may also wish to contact one of the following specialised services for support:

· The Willow Centre, Truro, (01872 272059).

· The Truth Project - if you have experienced childhood sexual abuse you may wish to participate in the Truth Project which enables survivors to share their experiences in a supportive and confidential setting.

Rape Crisis Centres

Rape Crisis Centres offer anonymous, confidential and professional support to people who have experienced rape, sexual assault and abuse. They usually provide face to face support, a helpline and an email support service. Find your local Rape Crisis Centre. Download Devon Rape Crisis' useful Self Help Guide.

Sexual Assault Referral Centres

Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support. They have specially trained NHS doctors, nurses and support workers. They also offer support from independent advisors. There are SARCs based in Exeter, Plymouth and Truro. Find SARCs in other locations.


Galop supports LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse and violence. The group runs helplines, shares information and hosts an online forum for survivors to share their own stories.


SurvivorsUK support boys, men and non binary people who have experienced sexual violence. They offer a national online helpline, individual and group counselling, and support for friends and families. 

Rape Crisis England and Wales

Rape Crisis England and Wales offer confidential emotional support on a free live chat helpline to women and girls over 16 years old who live in England and Wales.