Sexual violence or sexual abuse are ways of describing any unwanted sexual act or activity.

It does not matter who commits it, where or when it happened, it is never okay, and no one ever deserves for it to happen.

If you have experienced sexual violence or abuse there is confidential and independent support available to help you.

Get confidential support

Lots of different support is available to help you.

You can:

  • tell someone what happened
  • get help to access services in your local area
  • get emotional support including from trained counsellors and therapists
  • get medical support from specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers
  • get help to understand how the criminal justice system works

Whatever type of support you choose, you will be listened to and believed.

The first step to reach out for support will be different for everyone.

You can speak to someone over the phone or chat to someone online by contacting the services listed below – you might want to contact one which feels right for you and your needs.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, opening times and availability of services vary. In some areas, longer-term face-to-face services like counselling might currently be closed to new referrals, or might be operating waiting lists.

Some of these services only operate in England and Wales. You can read about the support available to you if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/

National telephone helpline (for women & girls aged 13+): 0808 802 9999 (every day from 12pm to 2:30pm and 7pm to 9:30pm)

Live chat emotional support (for women & girls 16+): https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-help/live-chat-helpline/about-the-live-chat-helpline/

https://www.safeline.org.uk/

Phone: 0808 800 5005 (Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday and Thursday from 8am to 8pm and Saturday from 10am to 2pm)

Text: 07860 065 187 (Same opening hours as the telephone service)

Live chat: https://www.safeline.org.uk/contact-us/

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

Live chat, SMS and email support: https://www.survivorsuk.org/ (Monday-Sunday, 12pm-8pm)

www.thesurvivorstrust.org

Phone: 0808 801 0818 (Monday – Friday from 10am to 8:30pm, Saturday from 10am to 12:30pm, 1:30pm to 4:30pm and 6pm to 8:30pm, Sunday from 1:30pm to 4:30pm and 6pm to 8:30pm)

Email: helpline@thesurvivorstrust.org

https://napac.org.uk/

Phone: 0808 801 0331 (Monday – Thursday from 10am to 9pm and Friday from, 10am to–6pm)

Email: support@napac.org.uk

https://gov.wales/live-fear-free

Phone: 0808 80 10 800 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Text: 07 860 077 333 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Email: info@livefearfreehelpline.wales (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Live chat: https://gov.wales/live-fear-free/domestic-abuse-wales (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

www.victimsupport.org.uk (includes live chat)

www.mysupportspace.org.uk (online self-support guides)

Phone: 0808 1689 111 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

http://www.breaking-the-silence.org.uk/

They operate nationally, offering a confidential help-line, triage service, and a healing therapy programme, adapted to the needs of BAME men. Their experienced counsellors are qualified in a range of therapies. They are member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP); their practice adheres to and is informed by the ethical framework of the BACP.

Local services

The following services have information on their websites to help you find support:

You may be put in contact with, or decide to contact a local rape support centre. These centres offer a range of community based services. This can include practical support and information, counselling, therapy, group work and advocacy services.

Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs)

You might also hear people talk about Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs).

Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support 24/7 to anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted or abused.

SARCs are located across the country and are here for everyone, regardless of when an incident happened. They are staffed by health and wellbeing professionals, who can provide support to individuals and arrange counselling and therapy sessions following rape, sexual assault or abuse.

You can self-refer and, unless there is a safety issue, it’s up to you whether to involve the police or not.

Anyone who has experienced sexual violence or abuse can access support from a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

Support for sexual violence as a result of domestic abuse

You can also access support if the sexual violence or abuse you have experienced is the result of domestic abuse.

Find out more about the types of domestic abuse support available.

Reporting sexual violence

You may be thinking about reporting what happened to the police.

Your rights and entitlements are set out in full in the Victims’ Code.

The Victims' Code helps you to understand the support you can get.

Supporting someone else

Supporting a friend or family member

It can be really hard to know what to say to a friend or family member who has confided in you about the sexual violence and abuse they suffered.

Guidance on what you might want to say is available from Rape Crisis England & Wales.

Read other people's stories

You might be nervous about reaching out for support, and you may find it useful to read about other people’s experiences.

This may also give you an idea of what the next steps might look like.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to react, think or feel.

Shauna's story

“I felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, when before I didn’t feel like I was going to survive what I was going through.”

Sophie's story

“I went seven years without telling anyone and then I realised it wasn’t my fault, and I needed to get the right support.”

"After I was abused, I felt like a prisoner of my own pain for so many years. There was a lot of trauma built up and a lot of self-destructive behaviour. I knew I needed to make a better life for myself and I really believe you can’t start that healing process until you take that initial step and speak about it with a professional. Seeking support gave me my chance to break the shackles and be in charge of what I want to do."

Shauna, Sexual Abuse Survivor, 31

“I was sexually and physically abused from the age of nine until about the age of thirteen. It wasn’t until I started struggling at work, as an adult, that I thought about reaching out for support. I started self-harming and it became quite frightening. I found specialist support at a group therapy session for male survivors. After walking around the block a few times, I finally managed to go inside. The magical thing about group therapy is hearing your experiences coming out of someone else’s mouth. You realise that you’re not alone.”

John, Sexual Abuse Survivor, 64