Q & A
What is consent?
Consent is when a person freely gives their permission or agrees to something. This decision should have been made without that person being:
• Pressured or bullied,
• Encouraged to use drugs or alcohol to influence their decision, or;
• Manipulated or controlled
The law says that both people must give their consent before any sexual activity.
This means that before having sex, a person must always make sure their you must always make sure that your partner wants to as well. It’s always a crime to have sexual activity with somebody without their consent. If someone doesn’t feel free to make a choice (e.g. because they were pressured or threatened) then they have not consented, even if they don’t say no.
The law also says that to consent to sex a person must be over 16 and have the ability to make informed decisions for themselves. This means that it is illegal for an adult to have sex with an under 16 year old, or for two under 16s to have sex. This law is there to protect children from sexual abuse (you can find more information about sexual abuse in the next answer).
If you are worried that you or someone you know is being sexually abused, talk to an adult you trust or report it to CEOP.
Learn more by reading this article about consent.
What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is when someone is pressured, forced or tricked in to any sexual activity with another person.
Sexual abuse includes when:
• You’re being touched in a way you don’t like, without giving your permission or consent.
• You’re being forced to have sex.
• You’re forced to look at sexual picture or videos.
• You’re made to watch someone do something sexual. This can include someone exposing themselves to you via webcam, in pictures or in person.
• You’re made to do something sexual to yourself or to someone else that feels uncomfortable or wrong. This could be via a webcam or face-to-face.
Sexual abuse is a crime. It can happen within relationships or with people you don’t know that well. If someone is sexually abused it is NEVER their fault.
ALL sexual contact (including physical contact and sharing nude images) between an adult and a young person is considered to be child sexual abuse and this is a crime. It is the adult who has broken the law. It is never the young person’s fault, and there is lots of support available for them.
If you have been sexually abused you may feel like you’re on your own but there is help available. There are people out there who understand, who will listen to you and who will help make it stop.
The most important thing to do is to tell someone what has happened. Taking that first step to tell someone can be really difficult and even embarrassing. There are some tips about how to start talking to someone you trust about things which are difficult here. You can also talk to ChildLine for free any time on 0800 1111.
CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone is trying to abuse them. If you are being sexually abused you can report to CEOP or your local police. If you are in immediate danger please call 999.
What is emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse in a relationship can involve someone:
• Trying to control their partner by telling them what they can and can’t do, who they’re allowed to see and what they’re allowed to wear;
• Being jealous of their partner seeing other people or becoming angry when they want to spend time with their friends;
• Putting them down, saying mean things to them, embarrassing them in private or in public;
• Making their partner feel anxious about what they might say or do next - being nice one minute and unkind the next;
• Using threats to control them.
Learn more about abuse in relationships, and how to get help if you are worried that you or someone you know is being emotionally abused.
What counts as physical abuse?
Physical abuse in a relationship is when someone is physically violent or threatening towards you. This can come in many forms for example hitting, kicking, slapping and pushing you around. If this happens to you it is wrong. You do not need to put up with it, and there is lots of help available for you.
Learn more about abuse in relationships and how to get help.
Am I in an abusive relationship?
Abuse in a relationship can take many different forms. Signs of abuse in a relationships can include a partner:
• telling you what you can and can’t wear;
• making you feel guilty for spending time with your friends rather than them;
• using threats or violence to control you;
• forcing you to do sexual things with them or with other people;
• saying what you can and can’t spend your money on.
Everyone has bad days, but if your partner regularly makes you feel bad about yourself or anxious about what they might say or do next, you could be in an abusive relationship.
Abuse in a relationship is a crime. If you are being abused, you do not have to put up with it. There is lots of support available. The best thing to do is tell an adult you trust – a family member, someone in school, youth worker or social worker. Organisations you can contact for support - these include Brook (0808 802 1234), Childline (0800 1111) and CEOP.