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Rape and sexual assault

Rape, sexual assault and the law

Rape and sexual assault can carry long sentences.

  • People found guilty of rape can be sent to prison for life.
  • Those guilty of sexual assault can be sent to prison for up to ten years.
  • Those found guilty will be put on the sex offenders' register.
  • A person can still be convicted of rape or sexual assault, even if they are not the rapist but were present or took part in the assault in some other way.

Reporting rape and sexual assault

Many cases of rape and sexual assault never get reported. This may be because:

  • the victim is afraid
  • they are worried about not being believed
  • they think if they report it their attacker will "get" them
  • they think it's their own fault or other people will blame them
  • they are frightened of talking about what happened
  • they feel unable to trust anyone anymore
  • they don't think what happened counts as rape or sexual assault
  • they are frightened that their family might disown them perhaps, though not always, due to cultural beliefs
  • they feel ashamed of what has happened
  • they are worried about going to court
  • they are worried that they were somewhere they shouldn't have been
  • they are worried that they had been drinking alcohol or taken drugs at the time

However, it is really important that rape or sexual assault is reported or that the victim seeks help as soon as they feel able to.

As the police, we are here to protect victims and to investigate all crimes. Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes and should be reported to us. We will always investigate any crime allegations no matter how much time may have passed since the incident happened.

Also The Havens are specialist centres in London for people who have been raped or seriously sexually assaulted. If someone feels unable to report an incident to the police, the Havens can help to provide support and advice. They can help you recover, physically and emotionally, from your ordeal.

If you are worried about any issues relating to rape and sexual assault, there's plenty of help and support available. Visit our ‘More help and advice’ page.

Rape and sexual assault