Sexual bullying and harrassment |  Sexual assault |  Intimate partner sexual violence |  Rape |  Child sexual abuse |  Child sexual exploitation (CSE) |  Grooming |  Sexual exploitation |  Female genital mutilation |  Forced marriage |  Modern slavery and trafficking |  Revenge porn | 

Sexual bullying and harrassment

Sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that you find offensive or which makes you feel distressed, intimidated or humiliated. You don't have to have objected to a certain kind of behaviour in the past for it to be unwanted and constitute harassment. Sexual bullying/harassment can include: someone making sexually degrading comments or gestures; your body being stared or leered at; e-mails or text messages with sexual content; Pressurising someone to do sexting; physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances and touching. Sexual harassment in the workplace is widespread and commonplace: research by ComRes for the BBC in 2017 found that 40 per cent of women and 18 per cent of men had experienced some form of unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace.

Sexual assault

The overall definition of sexual or indecent assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts. Not all cases of sexual assault involve violence, cause physical injury or leave visible marks. Sexual assault can cause severe distress, emotional harm and injuries which can't be seen – all of which can take a long time to recover from. In the year to the end of March 2017, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated: 20.3% of women and 3.8% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16.

Intimate partner sexual violence

A perpetrator can have any relationship to a victim, and that includes the role of an intimate partner. No matter how the relationship is defined and who the relationship is with, it is never okay to engage in sexual activity without someone’s consent. Sexual assault in a relationship rarely exists in a vacuum and often occurs alongside other forms of abusive behaviour. There are many reasons why a woman or man might stay in an intimate relationship that is violent or abusive, including fear, shame and self-blame, concern for their children and hope that their partner's behaviour might change. Staying in a relationship that involves or has involved sexual violence does not mean someone is any less deserving of specialist support and justice than someone raped in any other kind of circumstance. In the year to the end of March 2017, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated: 5.6% of women and 0.7% of men had been sexually assaulted by an intimate partner since the age of 16.


The UK legal definition of rape is the penetration with a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent. There is also an offence of 'sexual assault by penetration' which applies to penetration with any part of the body other than the penis or any object, without consent – this can carry the same sentences as rape. In the year to the end of March 2017, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated: 6.4% of women and 0.3% of men have experienced rape or an attempted rape or assault by penetration since the age of 16. Regardless of whether drugs, including alcohol, have been administered to someone without their knowledge or consent, or whether they have willingly consumed alcohol or drugs, 100% of the responsibility for any act of sexual violence lies with its perpetrator. Everyone has the right to say 'no' to sex, to withdraw or withhold their consent for any sexual act, on any occasion and under any circumstances, regardless of whether they've given consent to sex with that person in the past and regardless of whether they're in a relationship with the other person. Sex without consent is rape.

Child sexual abuse

It is beginning to be acknowledged that Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) happens far more than most people realise or perhaps want to be believe. According to the 2015-16 Crime Survey for England and Wales, 7% of people aged between 16 and 59 reported that they were sexually abused as a child. A recent briefing by the NSPCC (2019) estimates 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused A high proportion of people who contact Horizon Services are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. However you feel childhood sexual abuse might or might not have affected your life, whatever feelings you have about the abuse you’ve experienced, they are all valid and there is support available for you. Abuse thrives on secrecy, and speaking out and acknowledging what happened to you can be an important part of your healing process. Whether you already have people in your life you’ve been able to talk to about your abuse or whether you’ve never spoken to anyone about it before, Horizon is there to support you.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

CSE is a type of child sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited in order for the abuser or abusers to gain money and/or power. It usually involves grooming, both in person and/or online. The police recorded over 15,000 child sexual exploitation related crimes in England and Wales in 2017/18.


Grooming a child is common practice amongst abusers who will spend time and effort insidiously compelling a child to do as she or he is told. Often bribes or threats are used to maintain compliance. Sometimes the child is given alcohol or drugs for the same purpose. Children can be manipulated by grooming into believing they are in a consensual, loving relationship when they are being abused and exploited. Online grooming is when someone uses the internet to trick, force or pressure a young person into doing something sexual - like sending a naked video or image of themselves. 3,171 grooming offences were recorded in 2017-2018 across 80 platforms in England and Wales.

Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation is the exploitation of young people and adults through the exchange of sex or sexual acts for money, drugs, food, shelter, gifts and protection. Sexual exploitation can take place anywhere, including on street, in brothels/parlours, online and can also involve human trafficking.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation or FGM refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is internationally recognised as a human rights violation and is illegal in the UK. FGM is usually carried out on girls aged between infancy and 15 years old and causes a range of long-term physical and psychological health problems. FGM has no health benefits. It has been estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK each year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM. But the true extent of FGM is unknown, due to the largely 'hidden' nature of the crime.

Forced marriage

Forced marriage is when you face physical pressure to marry (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (e.g. if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family). Taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place) and marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not) are both illegal in England and Wales. Forced marriage can happen to anyone regardless of age and gender. In 2018, the UK Government's Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,764 cases

Modern slavery and trafficking

Slavery was officially abolished many years ago – yet it still goes on today in most countries around the world, including in the UK. Human trafficking is the movement of a person from one place to another, within a country or across borders, into conditions of exploitation against their will. Child trafficking is where children are moved either internationally or domestically so they can be exploited. Modern slavery and trafficking often leads to sexual exploitation, where victims are forced to perform non-consensual or sexual acts against their will (such as prostitution, escort work and pornography). Whilst women and children make up the majority of victims, men can also be affected. Adults are often coerced with the threat of force or another penalty. In 2018, 7121 potential victims were indicated by the UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline.

Revenge porn

Revenge Porn is the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. Now a criminal offence, it applies both online and offline and includes the uploading of images on the internet, sharing by text and e-mail, or showing someone a physical or electronic image. 3,307 cases of revenge porn were reported to the police in England and Wales during 2017-18.