What is sexual violence?

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence includes any form of unwanted sexual act or activity, which may be physical or non-physical, that takes place without someone’s full, informed consent.

Types of sexual violence

There are many different types of sexual violence. These may include, but are not limited to:

(Please click the headings below for further information. Note that these contain descriptions of abuse that may be triggering.)


Although we talk about “sexual” violence, it is important to remember that sex only occurs when all people involved in the activity are freely and fully consenting.

Power and control

Sexual violence is used by perpetrators to gain power and control, allowing them to treat survivors with no regard or respect.

There are many unhelpful myths around sexual violence and abuse, and it is important for us to challenge these when they are repeated. The bottom line is that all forms of sexual violence are the fault of the perpetrator, regardless of the situation.


Consent happens when all people involved in any form of sexual activity choose to take part freely.

Consent may look and feel different to each person. It may involve enthusiastically saying ‘yes’, a reciprocal exchange of what each party does and does not want and checking in with the other person. Remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time and does not apply universally: just because someone has consented to one sexual activity does not mean they have automatically consented to another.

Someone does not need to say ‘no’ explicitly to indicate that they do not give their consent. If someone seems unsure or is quiet or unresponsive, they are not agreeing to participate in sexual activity.

By definition, people must have the freedom and capacity to make that choice in order to give consent. Someone does not have the capacity to do this if, for example:

  • They are too young
  • They are asleep or unconscious
  • They have consumed alcohol or drugs
  • They have been ‘spiked’
  • They are being pressured, manipulated, intimidated, or tricked
  • They are being coerced by force
  • They are unable to make a choice for any other reason

The age of consent for everyone in Wales is 16, regardless of gender, sex, or sexual orientation.

For support

Anyone affected by these forms of violence and abuse should be able to access help and support when they need it and every case should be taken seriously.

The Live Fear Free Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for women, children and men experiencing domestic abuse, sexual violence or other forms of violence against women.