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What is rape or sexual assault?



The definition rape changed from the 1st of December 2010 with the intorduction of the the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009. Rape is penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth by a penis, by however a small amount. This has to be without the persons consent or 'reasonable belief' that the person consented.

Consent is defined within the new law as 'free agreement' and the new law of 'reasonable belief' has been applied, it will be up to the jury in a trial to determine whether the accused's explanation of reasonable belief is believable.

In Scotland, rape can only be committed by men – because of the changes to the defintion the victim of rape can be a woman or a man.

The definition that states that a rape must by ‘by force’ implies that a violent struggle must have taken place and for many women this is not the case. The threat of violence or death is often used by rapists to force women to comply. In fact, the law only requires that threats of physical violence were made.

Our definition of rape and sexual assault (sexual violence) is wider than this legal definition. We define sexual violence as any unwanted sexual behaviour that causes humiliation, pain, fear or intimidation and this can include unwanted kissing and touching, forcing someone to watch sexual acts, pornography, sexual harassment or forcing a woman into prostitution.

Sexual Assualt

Sexual Assault by Penetration has been introduced in this law to overlap with new definition of rape which is designed to capture times when the victim, due to various reasons such as being blindfolded does not know what they are being penetrated with. This crime is not called rape but is considered as serious as rape and carries the same punishment by law.

Sexual Assault is when someone penetrates to by any means and to any extent someones vagina, anus or mouth without consent or reasonable belief that they consented, touches someone sexually, engages in any form of sexual activity, has physical contact with anyone's body with an implement either over or under their clothing, ejaculates semen onto them, or emits urine or saliva onto them sexually.

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