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Tips for reporting on Rape and Sexual Assault

reporting rape and sexual assault

What is it?

Rape is defined under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 as the “penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth by the penis without consent”. There is a range of sexual assault and abuse which does not fit within the legal definition of rape, but can be just as distressing and have just as much of an impact.

Any sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or rape.

 

What is consent?

Consent is active and ongoing. A person can always change their mind, even during an activity.

Consent to one activity is not consent to all – just because a person has consented to sex before, does not mean they’ve consented to sex in the future. Just because a person kisses someone does not mean they have consented to sex.

Consent must be freely given: a person has not consented if they are pestered, worn down, made to feel like they ‘owe’ something, or feel like they can’t say no.

Consent cannot be given if a person is incapable because of the influence of alcohol and/or drugs or because they are asleep or unconscious.

Consent can be expressed verbally or non-verbally (known as body language). If someone does not ‘fight back’, that does not mean they have consented. Freezing is as common a reaction to fear as ‘flight or fight’ . (source)

 

Tips for reporting

Don’t report rape or sexual assault as a crime of sexual desire or passion, e.g. ‘he couldn’t resist her’. This narrative is insulting to men, as it suggests they can’t control themselves, and absolves them of blame. Men have control over their own actions, and violence is always a choice. Rape is a crime of power and control that can be violent, abusive, and degrading. It involves sexual behaviours but is motivated by power and control rather than desire.

Don’t blame a woman for ‘leading a man on’ by what they were wearing, by kissing him, or by going home with him.

Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault or rape, and is a choice by the perpetrator.

Stranger Rape

When covering a story of rape or sexual assault perpetrated by someone who is a stranger to the victim-survivor, emphasize the fact that it is an anomaly.

86% of serious sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim-survivor knows, and only 9% of rapes reported to the police are committed by a stranger (source).

False accusations

It is highly uncommon for women to regret consensual sex then later claim it was rape. There are no more false reports of rape than of any other crime. It is important to mention this when covering a story of false allegations.

 

Tip: Check Rape Crisis Scotland's Guide on how to report sexual assault trials responsibly.

 

 

 

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