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Sexual abuse and violence awareness at UCL

2 February 2021

Sexual Abuse and Violence Awareness week (1-7 February) marks a dedicated effort towards raising awareness of sexual abuse and violence in the UK. At UCL, we take a firm stand against sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct of any kind.

Blades of grass with raindrops

What is sexual abuse?

Any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. This can include rape, sexual assault (any form of unwanted sexual contact) and sexual harassment (unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature).

Examples of sexual abuse include:

  • Inappropriate touching over clothes, in a way you feel is sexual.
  • Pressuring you to do sexual acts you do not want to do.
  • Making comments of a sexual nature, from ‘cat calling’ on the street to sexual content in text messages which makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy.

It is important to remember that Sexual abuse is NEVER the fault of the victim, responsibility lies with the perpetrator.

Any sexual act or activity performed without consent is sexual violence. Rape is a key example of this. Rape is an act in which the perpetrators penis penetrates the victim’s vagina, mouth or anus without consent. 90% of rape cases are perpetrated by someone known to the victim.

What is consent?

Put very simply consent is ‘Agreeing by choice and having the freedom and capacity to make a choice’. This means that:

  • Someone has to know they have a choice and have the ability to make that choice.
  • The individuals engaging in the sexual activity must have the freedom to make that choice – which means they have not been forced, manipulated, threatened, pressured or coerced.
  • All parties must have the capacity to consent which means they’re not drunk, asleep, drugged or unconscious.  Capacity may also be put into question where there is a concern over age and any disabilities the victim has which may prevent them from having mental capacity to consent.

For further information about consent we would encourage you to complete the Sexual Consent Module.

The impact of sexual abuse

Sexual abuse does not always involve physical violence or weapons. There may not be visible injuries from the abuse, but this does not reflect the harm that has been caused. Sexual abuse can take many forms, and can have a lasting impact on the mental wellbeing of victims. It can leave victims with feelings of shame, guilt, denial, disassociation, anxiety and many more emotions, which can be difficult to manage without appropriate support.

Support at UCL

If you have been a victim of sexual abuse or violence, you are not alone. There is support available at UCL and beyond. We are here to help support you through this difficult time.

We would advise you to use Report+Support which is our dedicated platform to report harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct at UCL. You can report anonymously and include as much detail as you feel comfortable with. When completing the form you can ask for an advisor to contact you to offer further support and assistance.

At UCL we have a dedicated Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Advisor, Sophie Bimson, who is available to give advice and information about reporting options, specialist support and how to keep safe from harm. You can contact Sophie by email

You can also contact Student Support and Wellbeing for further support.

External Support

If you would like to report sexual abuse to Police you can do so online here.

For support we would recommend reaching out to Rape Crisis or Survivors Trust who can provide specialist support for anyone affected by sexual abuse and rape. Both Rape Crisis and Survivors trust have free helplines, with opening times listed on their webpages above.


Sophie Bimson, Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Advisor