Hoping to break the cycle of silence surrounding abuse, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire (OPCC) and Gloucestershire Constabulary are supporting Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2020.

Now in its fifth year, the awareness week is designed to highlight that sexual abuse and violence comes in many forms and to signpost victims to places they can report crime and where they can obtain emotional support. To support the campaign, Gloucestershire OPCC has rounded up 12 things you might not have known about sexual offences.

Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2020 takes place from Monday 3 to Sunday 9 February 2020. For more information, visit sexualabuseandsexualviolenceawarenessweek.org.

1. Upskirting


Upskirting is when someone uses a camera to take a photo or video up someone’s skirt, without their permission. It doesn’t matter if the person is wearing underwear or not – it’s still a sexual offence and can result in jail time.

Offenders have different reasons for upskirting, often for their own sexual gratification, but sometimes to cause alarm or humiliation to the victim.

Upskirting was made a criminal offence in 2019 and the most serious offenders are placed on the sex offender’s register, too.

2. Sexting or sending photos (if you’re under 18)

woman on phone sending photo

With so many people turning to dating apps to meet their next partner, sending and receiving explicit images or ‘sexting’ is quite often seen as a common part of courtship. But, while the age of consent is 16, if a person chats someone under the age of 18, they’re still classed as a child when it comes to indecent imagery – meaning sexting could be a sexual offence.

If a person under 18 takes a sexually explicit image of themselves and sends it, they have committed an offence by distributing the image. The person receiving the image also commits an offence by being in possession, or by sending it on further – which is again classed as distribution.

3. Using the mouth

woman looking sad

Rape is when a person uses their penis to penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth of another person, without consent.

Many people assume that an attack which focuses on the mouth is a sexual assault, when in fact, it is classed as rape.

4.  Revenge porn

woman shocked on phone

Revenge porn is the common term for disclosing private sexual images, without consent. It usually involves and ex-partner who uploads intimate images to the internet to try and humiliate or embarrass the victim.

The offence is a fairly new one, which was introduced to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act in 2015. Offenders can be given a maximum prison sentence of two years.

5.  Sex while asleep

woman asleep in bed

Someone who is asleep cannot give their consent. As such, sexual activity with someone who’s fallen asleep is a sexual offence. Even if they agreed to sex before they fell asleep, as soon as they enter the land of nod – sex should be off the table.

6. Using an object

lady looking sad

Just because a person hasn’t used their body to assault someone, it can still be a sexual offence. Assault by penetration is when the victim doesn’t consent to penetration, and the offender uses an object to penetrate the victim with sexual motives.

7. Revoking consent

man head in hands

A person can revoke their consent at any time, even if they’d previously agreed to engage in sexual activity. Ignoring this will mean the perpetrator has committed a sexual offence with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

8. Voyeurism

lego man filming voyeurism

With mobile technology so readily accessible, it’s easier than ever before for offenders to record their victims in private. So much so, that the law around voyeurism changed in 2019 to include new offences such as upskirting.

Anyone operating or setting up a camera to watch somebody in private for sexual gratification, without their consent, is classed as voyeurism. The offence can land them in prison for up to two years.

9. Women can’t commit rape

man looking sad

Legally, a person without a penis cannot commit rape. But women can and do commit sexual assault.

Sexual assault is when a person is touched sexually without consent, or is physically forced or coerced to engage against their will.

10. Marital and relationship rape

married couple

Being married or in a committed relationship does not override consent. Being forced into sexual activity, even by your spouse or partner is still classed as rape or a sexual offence, and will be handled by police in the same way as acquaintance or stranger rape.

11. Causing someone to watch

child watching outdoors

If a person intentionally causes a child under 18, or someone with a mental disorder to watch them engage in a sexual act, they are committing a sexual offence.

If the offender’s intention is to obtain sexual gratification by forcing the victim to watch, a crime has already been committed. This also includes incidents over webcam.

12. Stealthing


If a person has given their consent for sex under the circumstances that a condom will be worn, but it’s removed or damaged half-way through – a practise known as ‘stealthing’, it’s a violation of a sexual agreement and could be deemed as rape.

The reason for this is that consent was given under a certain set of circumstances. Once these circumstances are changed without the victim’s knowledge, there is no longer consent.