Types of sexual offences

Please note that the following information contains detailed references and descriptions of sexual harm

It is important to recognise that some individuals will have experienced more than one type of sexual offences / harm in their lifetime.


A rape is when a person intentionally penetrates another’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without the other person’s consent. Legally, a person without a penis cannot commit rape, but a female may be guilty of rape if they assist a male perpetrator in an attack.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is when a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or when a person, male or female, touches another person sexually without their consent. Touching can be done with any part of the body or with an object.

Sexual assault by penetration

Sexual assault by penetration is when a person (male or female) penetrates the vagina or anus of another person with any part of their body or an object without that person’s consent.

Sexual abuse against children and young people

When a child or young person is sexually abused, they’re forced or coerced into sexual activities. They might not understand that what is happening is abuse or that it is wrong and they might be afraid to tell someone.

contact abuse

Contact abuse is where an abuser makes physical contact with a child. This includes:

  • sexual touching of any part of a child’s body, whether they’re clothed or not
  • using a body part or object to rape or penetrate a child
  • forcing a child to take part in sexual activities
  • making a child undress or touch someone else

Contact abuse can include touching, kissing and oral sex – sexual abuse isn’t just penetrative.

non-contact abuse

Non-contact abuse is where a child is abused without being touched by the abuser. This can be in person or online and includes:

  • exposing or flashing
  • showing pornography
  • exposing a child to sexual acts
  • making them masturbate
  • forcing a child to make, view or share child abuse images or films
  • making, viewing or distributing child abuse images or films
  • forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or conversations online or through a smartphone.

Population data tells us that some children who experience Adverse Childhood Experiences including the trauma associated with sexual offences can experience a wide range of issues into adulthood including physical health problems, mental ill health and substance abuse. Such experiences can also negatively impact their education, opportunities to be employed and future relationships. In short, the crime(s) committed against them, and the trauma generated by those crimes can limit their opportunities for the future.

However, it also must be recognised that these potential consequences are not the ‘destiny’ of every individual who has experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences and many individuals go on to thrive into adulthood.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a specific form of child abuse. It can involve:

• physical contact (eg rape)
• non-penetrative acts (eg masturbation or kissing)
• non-contact activities (eg involving children in the production of sexual images or forcing children to watch sexual activities)
• grooming (online and offline)

When a child or young person is exploited, they are given things in exchange for taking part sexual activities. These ‘things’ can include money, new possessions (eg clothes or technology), drugs and alcohol, but also affection. Adults who exploit children and young people often do so by tricking them into believing that they are in a loving and consensual relationship.

exploitation Types of sexual offences

Indecent images of children

An ‘indecent image’ of a child is a sexual image of a child (anyone under the age of 18) and can include:

  • Nude or partially clothed children
  • Children sexually posing
  • Self-generated sexual images by children (ie selfies)
  • Images which show children engaging in sexual activity

It is illegal to take, make, share and possess indecent images and pseudo-photographs of people under the age of 18 years.Pseudo-photographs are images which appear to be a photograph and that may have been created by a computer. It is also illegal to look at sexual images or videos of individuals who are under the age of 18, even if the person looking at the images/videos thought they looked older.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves procedures which are carried out for non-medical reasons that include (but not limited to):

  • Narrowing or sealing the opening of the vagina by stitching, sewing or cutting parts of the vagina
  • Cutting or removing the clitoris
  • Cutting or removing the labia majora or minora

Although known as ‘FGM’ the practice has different names in different languages

Disclosing private sexual images without consent (sometimes referred to as ‘revenge porn’)

Revenge porn is the sharing of private sexual materials (like photos or videos) of a person, without their consent, with the intent to cause distress.  

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