Remember! In an emergency always call 999.

Report Online The University treats all reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment equally and with the highest level of severity. It may be useful to understand the differences between the two.

What is sexual violence?

Covers all sexual offences involving physical contact; including rape, sexual assault by penetration and sexual assault. All are defined below.

Rape

  • As defined under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
  • Rape is the penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth, by a penis, without consent.
  • Rape is a crime of basic intent and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs of any kind is not considered a defence.
  • In the UK the maximum sentence for rape life imprisonment.
  • By definition, rape can only be committed by a male but anyone can be a victim of rape, regardless of gender. However, it is important to note that sexual assault by penetration can be committed by any person; rape and sexual assault by penetration both carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment in the UK, indicating the equal seriousness of these crimes.

Sexual Assault by penetration

  • As defined under Section 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
  • Requires the penetration of the vagina or anus by any body part (such as but not limited to finger or tongue) or anything else (such as but not limited to a bottle or vibrator) without consent.
  • A person of any gender can commit sexual assault by penetration and a person of any gender can be a victim of sexual assault by penetration.
  • In the UK the maximum sentence for sexual assault by penetration life imprisonment.

Sexual Assault

  • As defined under Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
  • Requires touching of a sexual nature with, using any body part or anything else, without consent.
  • Such as, but not limited to, unwanted touching of breasts, genital area or buttocks or unwanted kissing.
  • Touching can be through clothing or anything else (such as, but not limited to, a bedsheet).
  • A person of any gender can commit sexual assault and a person of any gender can be a victim of sexual assault.
  • In the UK the maximum sentence for sexual assault is 10 years’ imprisonment.
What is sexual harassment?
  • Defined under section 26 (2) of the Equality Act 2010.
  • Any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating the recipient’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
  • Sexual Harassment can be verbal harassment which includes, but is not limited to, whistling, catcalling, sexual comments, sexual innuendo, telling sexual jokes, spreading rumours about someone’s sex life. Or it can include nonverbal harassment which includes, but is not limited to, looking someone up and down, displaying pictures of a sexual nature, making sexual gestures, and sending emails containing sexual content.
  • Sexual Harassment also includes ‘revenge porn’ as defined under Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. This is the disclosing of private photographs and films with intent to cause distress.
  • A person of any gender can commit sexual harassment and a person of any gender can be a victim of sexual harassment.
  • An incident may include sexual harassment and sexual assault where there is physical contact involved as defined above.

Consent 

  • As defined under section 74 of the Sexual Offence Act 2003.
  • To give consent you must agree by choice and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
  • If the victim is unaware of what is occurring, through drink, drugs, sleep, age or mental disability they may be incapable of giving valid consent.
  • If the victim was deceived as to the identity of the person with whom the incident occurred then they are unable to give consent.
  • Consent can be withdrawn any time during the encounter. If a person withdraws consent and the encounter continue then it would constitute sexual assault.
  • Being in a relationship or having had a consenting sexual encounter before does not automatically provide consent for other sexual encounters.

Overlap of offences

An incident may include sexual harassment and sexual violence. If you feel you have been effected by an incident but are not sure whether it was sexual harassment, sexual violence or both, don't worry. It can be confusing, you can still get support or report the incident. You can reports can email reportandsupport@abdn.ac.uk or speak to HR or Student Support.

Immediate Advice

If you are sexually assaulted we strongly recommend that you report it, but also take care of yourself. We advise that you do the following things.

  1. Go somewhere safe with someone you trust.
     
  2. Document any injuries by taking pictures of them or asking someone you trust to do so. This may be distressing but is crucial if you wish to report later on. 
     
  3. Have any injuries treated. This can be done by your GP or at A&E.
     
  4. You may want to check for pregnancy and STIs. Remember you can take the morning after pill within 72 hours. This can be done at a GP or a sexual health clinic.
     
  5. You may be in shock, scared, angry, or you may not know how you feel. All of these responses are normal. If you would like support for your mental wellbeing see the 'support' tab.
     
  6. Remember that this was not your fault, what happened was not OK. For more information on reporting see the 'report' tab.
Report

Sexual violence is illegal, therefore we strongly advise that you report any incidents to the police as soon as possible by calling 999. 

The quicker you report, the easier it will be to collect evidence. 

The University will support you in making the report and the following process if you want us to. If you are on campus you can contact campus security, if you are a student in University halls you can contact the Student Residents Assistance. You can also speak to HR (staff) or Student Support.

Although we highly recommend it, you have the final decision on whether to report or not. If you do not wish to make a formal report you can still access support. You can report at a later date, but bear in mind that evidence may be harder to collect.

If you have any questions on making a report, or accessing the available support, email us on report.support@abdn.ac.uk.

Support

The University is committed to supporting all those who are affected by sexual violence and harassment; this includes victims as well as those they have disclosed to or those who have witnessed incidents.

We are focused on providing a holistic support approach which includes support for physical health, mental health as well as academics/work life. To do this, the University has in house support for staff (HR) and students (Student Support). We are also connected to a wide range of external organisations.

For full details, see Support Services section below.

Support services

Respond to a Disclosure

If a friend, colleague or student decides to tell you about an incident of sexual violence or harassment that they have suffered from, you may not know how to respond. Here are some dos and don'ts on how to respond.

Do:

  • Listen: let them say what they need to say and let them know you are listening. Don't interrupt or ask lots of questions. It may be difficult for you to hear but this person wants to open up to you and wants to get this off their chest, so let them take their time.
  • Believe them: Lying about sexual violence or harassment is extremely rare. It is important that they know you believe them.
  • Stress that it's not their fault: they may blame themselves, but it is never the victim's fault. Make sure they know that.
  • Acknowledge their courage: talking about their experiences means that the victim is having to relive it in some way, it takes a lot of courage to do that. 
  • Let them stay in control: Victims may feel powerless, giving them control over what to do next can help. They should decide if they want to report, where and when to seek medical attention and what support options to use. By all means help them in booking appointments or even accompanying them if they want you to but make sure to respect their decisions.

Don't:

  • Push them into telling you anything they aren't ready to talk about: don't ask lots of questions as they may not want to answer them just yet.
     
  • Judge: it is never the victims fault so don't ask questions like 'how much did you drink?' or 'what were you wearing?'.
     
  • Ask why they waited to tell you. It takes a lot of courage to speak out and it may have taken time to build up this courage.
     
  • Ask them why they didn't fight back. Our body's response to terrifying situations is often out of our control, we may run, freeze or fight. Freezing is a very common response in cases of sexual violence and a victim should not be judged for doing so.

Self-Care

Responding to a disclosure can be a traumatic experience and you should seek support if you feel you need it. You should never disclose a victim's experiences without their permission but you can talk confidentially to a number of services including HR (staff), Student Support or an external service like Rape Crisis  and for more information on other services visit the External Services tab below.

Student Specific Support

If you have any questions or concerns regarding sexual violence, harassment or an incident you just don't think was OK, you can speak to Student Support.


Out of Hours contact

If you need to speak to someone when the Student Advice and Support Office is closed

  • contact your GP and ask for an emergency appointment
  • contact NHS out of hours service on 111 - NHS out-of-hours
  • call 999 in an emergency
Staff Specific Support

There are a number of support options for staff. You can either contact your HR partner, PAM assist or a wellbeing coordinator. 

Worried about Mental Health

Traumatic events can result in different responses. If you are a survivor of sexual violence or harassment, however you feel is a valid response. Everyone responds differently.

Remember that you are not to blame. It was not your fault and you are not alone.


If you are struggling to cope after being a victim, witnessing or having someone disclose to you, we strongly recommend you seek professional help and advice.  The University is here to support you. For mental health issues we have the following services;

Students:

Staff:

There are also a number of charities and services which can support you.  Please check on the tab below, a list of External Services and short descriptions of how they can help.

Although we recommend seeing professional help where possible, there are a number of self-care options.

  • One in Four has a series of exercises from their ‘The Warrior Within’ handbook. You can work through them in any order and can work alongside professional counselling. http://www.oneinfour.org.uk/support-self-care/.  Includes things like starting an activity journal, taking up physical exercise and identifying your triggers.

Remember that everyone reacts differently in response to traumatic events, and that's OK. In the same way, everyone finds different ways of managing their mental health. It might be painting, going for a run, spending time with friends, writing a journal, taking up a new hobby etc. Find what works for you.

Worried About Physical Health

Sexual Violence can result in a range of physical and mental trauma.

  • advice on Mental Health, can be found on the Worried about Mental Health tab above.

If you need emergency medical attention, call 999.


If you have been a victim of sexual violence you may need some time to process what has happened, and you may decide that you do not wish to report the incident. These are your choices and not making an official report does not prevent you from seeking support.

However it is very important that you seek medical help as soon as possible after the incident. This is because of the risk of pregnancy or STIs. You may also have cuts, bruises or other injuries which need to be seen to. The following services can provide the medical help you need.

  • A doctor or practice nurse at your GP: you should try to be seen as soon as possible, to do this you can ask for an emergency appointment.
  • NHS 111: Call 111 for out of hours support, this is also useful if you are not registered with a local GP. If your GP surgery is not open, you can call 111 for an emergency hospital appointment, during GP hours you can speak to a nurse on the 111 phone number.
     
  • Sexual Health Clinic: 0345 337 9900.
    The clinic is inside Aberdeen Community Health and Care Village on Fredrick Street.
    Victims of sexual violence are given priority appointments.
     
  • You can also go directly to A&E. The closest one to the University is at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI). 
    You can see if you are currently closer to a different A&E by searching the location or postcode.

If you decide to report to the police you can do so by calling 999 (if the situation is currently an emergency) or 101, they will be able to refer you for a forensic medical exam and assess your physical health.
Read more information on forensic medical exams .

Remember you don't have to go through any of this alone. You can take a trusted person with you to any appointments you make, or ask them to help you make the booking.

As with all medical information held by the NHS, your details will be held as confidentially as possible by all the services listed above.

External Services

The University aims to provide all the support that we can to assist with you recovery and ensure the mental and physical wellbeing of all staff and students. However, there are a number of local and nationwide services that provide free and independent support and services.

Below you will find a list of services with a brief description of how they can help. It includes services that can assist in both your mental and physical wellbeing. We will be updating this list as we learn about new services in the area.

Rape Crisis Scotland
Rape Crisis Scotland provides support to anyone effected by sexual violence at any point in their life. This can be through in person support, as well as via email and over the phone.
  • National helpline: 08088 01 03 02 - 6pm-midnight everyday
  • Local office in Aberdeen: Rape Crisis Grampian

For their nationwide website and information on other local branches.

NHS Services
The NHS is able to provide a wide range of medical support for victims of sexual violence and harassment. This includes physical and mental health support.

For treatment of physical injuries as well as STI and pregnancy testing and treatment you can use anyone of the following services.

  • A doctor or practice nurse at your GP: you should try to be seen as soon as possible, to do this you can ask for an emergency appointment.
  • NHS 111: Call 111 for out of hours support, this is also useful if you are not registered with a local GP. If your GP surgery is not open, you can call 111 for an emergency hospital appointment, during GP hours you can speak to a nurse on the 111 phone number.
     
  • Sexual Health Clinic: 0345 337 9900.
    The clinic is inside Aberdeen Community Health and Care Village on Fredrick Street.
    Victims of sexual violence are given priority appointments.
  • You can also go directly to A&E. The closest one to the University is at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI).
    You can see if you are currently closer to a different A&E by searching the location or postcode.

You can speak to your GP or call 111 to discuss and mental health issues and possible treatments. You can also mention it at any sexual health clinic appointment or at A&E, they will be able to direct you to suitable services.

Police Scotland

In an emergency always dial 999 - when a life is in danger, a crime is in progress or a suspect is nearby.

If the situation is not an emergency but you would like to speak to the police you can call 101, the non-emergency police phone number.

The police can refer you for forensic medical examinations, and collect other evidence, which can make up a significant amount of the evidence if you decide to press charges.

Police Scotland has established a National Rape Task Force that includes Rape Investigation Units in each of the 14 local divisions across Scotland. These units are led by Detective Inspectors and staffed by specially trained officers.

Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre

Based in South London but has a national Freephone helpline for female survivors of sexual violence.

Helpline: 0808 802 9999 - Daily: 12pm - 2:30pm and 7pm-9:30pm
- Monday to Friday: 3pm - 5:30pm

The helpline provides a supportive, non-judgemental, safe space for survivors and allow them to begin to talk about their experiences.

Survivors UK

For male survivors of sexual violence, either as a child or as an adult.

Survivors UK provides an online helpline - Monday to Friday: 10:30pm-9pm and Saturday to Sunday: 10am-6pm.

This service is also available to close friends and family of survivors.

Victim Support

Victim Support Scotland can provide practical help and emotional support to victims of crimes, as well as to witnesses and their friends and families. 

This can include a wide range of services from contacting your GP to explaining the criminal justice system to you. 

Support can be provided over the phone, in victim support offices or in your own home.

Samaritans

24/7 helpline contact: 116 123 

The Samaritans offer a 24 hour helpline for anyone who needs them. They offer a safe place for you to talk about whatever’s getting to you. It doesn't matter if you're a victim, a witness, have been disclosed to, or you are worried about someone else, The Samaritans are there to listen. 

Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) - Mental Health

This charity provides a number of online self-help resources and publications to help you understand your mental health. This can be useful if you are struggling to cope after witnessing or experiencing an incident of sexual violence or harassment, or if you have been disclosed to. 

If you would like to know more about mental health, visit our 'worried about mental health' tab above.