What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence can be defined as any act of a sexual nature that a person did not consent to. This can include rape, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse and exploitation, sexual harassment, and taking or sharing sexual images without someone’s consent. 

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity - making them feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated and/or creating a hostile or offensive environment.

What is consent?

Consent is as easy as FRIES. It is:

  • Freely given - No one is coerced, pressured or manipulated into agreeing to something that they don't want to do.
  • Reversible - Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime.
  • Informed - Everyone knows all the relevant information they need before making a decision i.e. use of contraception, sexual health status.
  • Enthusiastic - Every participant WANTS to be involved; not hesitant, stressed or feeling they are expected to do something.
  • Specific - Saying yes to one thing (i.e. kissing) doesn't mean you have said yes to others (like having sex).

When can someone not consent?

A lack of consent means that you did not want or choose to take part in a sexual act or acts. It can also mean that at the time it took place you did not have the freedom or capacity to make a proper choice. 

Things that might stop you from being able to make a choice to consent are:

  • Being drunk or under the influence of drugs
  • Being unconscious or asleep 
  • Being under age – the legal age of consent is 16
  • Health or mental health problems or disabilities that limited your choices at the time.

Things that can stop you from having the freedom to make a choice include:

  • Being threatened with violence against you or someone else
  • Being forced, pestered or coerced
  • Being blackmailed
  • If there is a power imbalance between you – for example they are a teacher, lecturer manager or carer. 

Sexual violence can be perpetrated by a stranger, yet is often by someone known and even trusted, like a friend, work colleague, family member, partner or ex-partner. No-one ever deserves sexual violence and it should never be justified or explained away.

If you have been raped or been through any kind of sexual violence, no matter how long ago, where you were, what you were doing, wearing, or saying, whether you were drunk or had taken drugs, it was not your fault and you did not deserve this. You do however deserve support. 

Please see the I've experienced bullying or harassment  webpage to find out more about how harassment cases are managed at LSE.

Accessing support

Visit our support for students or support for staff for more information on what support is available at LSE, or find out about support from external organisations.