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Understanding consent

People are not objects. So if you're in a sexual situation, it's essential that both you and your partner consent.

Any kind of sexual activity that happens without consent is illegal – it’s as simple as that. This includes touching and groping as well as sexual intercourse.

Consent can be given and then retracted. And just because someone didn’t say ‘no’, that doesn’t mean they’ve consented.

The consequences of not getting consent include:

  • Being arrested, charged or convicted of sexual assault or rape.
  • Going to jail – rape carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and sexual assault also carries significant jail terms.
  • Having to sign the Sex Offender’s Register for the rest of your life, which may affect your job prospects and where you can travel.
  • Being banned from visiting or working in certain countries, including the USA.

Almost half a million adults in England and Wales report being sexually assaulted each year. Contrary to many people’s perception, most rape and sexual assaults are not committed by strangers – in around 98%  of instances, the victim knows the attacker.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault or rape, our Rape and Sexual Assault page provides advice and explains the options and support available to you.

— Think you’re clear about consent? Take our 60-second quiz to see how much you really know —