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  1. Student Counselling and Mental Health Service
  2. Counselling
  3. Common issues
  4. Rape & sexual assault
Current students

Rape & sexual assault

Being raped or sexually assaulted is a very distressing experience with effects that can be long lasting.
People who have suffered sexual attacks describe feeling:

  • frightened
  • guilty
  • powerless
  • angry
  • ashamed
  • depressed
  • numb
  • a lack of self-confidence.

Sometimes victims of rape and sexual assault have difficulty with eating or sleeping. They may lack concentration and find this makes academic work difficult. Everyone reacts differently and it is not unusual for feelings to change from day to day. In particular there can be a long gap between the assault and the emotional reaction.

It can be difficult to talk about the attack to friends or family yet it is important to have understanding and support. It can be helpful to talk to a trained person - one of our Counsellors or a local Rape Crisis Centre - in confidence

Facts about rape and sexual assault

  • The perpetrator of the rape may well be known to the victim: There is a myth that sexual violence is only carried out by strangers. In fact the majority of offences are committed by someone known to the victim. They may be a friend, a partner, a colleague, a relative, a neighbour or a person in authority.
  • Rape is not always accompanied by other physical violence: When someone is sexually assaulted they may react in various ways. Some people scream or fight back; many become quiet - too shocked to speak or cry out. Paralysed by fear, they may be unable to resist. If violence is threatened, some may take the decision to struggle less in the hope of getting away with the least amount of physical harm. Consequently, they may or may not have torn clothes or signs of struggle afterwards. Verbal intimidation, threats or emotional blackmail may be used by the assailant. Therefore the victim does not need to show physical injuries to prove they have been assaulted.
  • Rape and sexual assault, whether by a stranger or a friend, is never the victim's fault: Rape and sexual assault is always more about the use of force or power to humiliate, control, hurt or violate someone than about sexual desire or passion. There is evidence to suggest that a very large number of attacks are premeditated. The appearance of the victim in terms of status, age, cultural background, occupation, previous relationships is irrelevant; anyone can suffer sexual assault or rape.

What to do after a rape or assault

People will react differently after sexual assault or rape. It is important to trust and validate your feelings and do what you need to do in order to recover. This may entail telling a friend, going to a place where you feel safe, having a bath or shower or crying.

In order to cope with the trauma of the event, many people will just try to carry on as normal and not tell anyone for a long time. However, often distress can surface a considerable time after the event. No matter how much later, you can always seek help from counsellors, doctors (GPs) etc. Do not feel you have to cope on your own simply because you did not report the incident soon after it happened.

Health issues

Many women who have been raped or sexually assaulted are concerned about their health. Hospitals and GPs must see you on a confidential basis and not report the assault to the police unless you request this.

You may decide to be tested for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you prefer not to use your GP there are many clinics which offer free and confidential advice. The local Sexual Health Centre where testing is carried out for sexually transmitted infections and HIV antibodies, is Bart's Sexual Health Centre.

You may have bruising and other injuries that need immediate attention by visiting an Accident & Emergency (A&E/Casualty) Department at a local hospital.

Reporting to the police

Sexual violence is a criminal offence and you can report the crime to the police if you wish your perpetrator to be prosecuted. It is your choice. You can do this later if you wish, but the reason for reporting a sexual assault immediately is so that forensic evidence can be taken. Evidence will be collected by means of a medical examination by a police surgeon - who will be a GP employed part-time by the police.

If the attack was physically violent the police forensic team may also wish to visit the scene of the crime to collect more evidence.

When you go to the police station you can take someone with you, such as a friend or professional worker. Ask for an officer who has had special training.

Today the police are trained to use tact and sensitivity. No one has the right to ask you to disclose any personal details about your previous relationships and sexual life.

If you have reported a sexual offence you have the right to withdraw the complaint at any time. The police may require clothing to be left for forensic examination. The police station can provide you with other clothing, but it is a good idea to take a change of clothes with you.

If you are traumatised after the assault you may arrange another time for a statement to be made. If English is not your first language, the police can arrange for an interpreter to be present. The police officer will explain police procedures to you and give you advice and information of the next stages including the court process.

City, University of London, in line with other universities, has a duty to report any crime of which it learns to the police. This is particularly important when other students may be at risk. Therefore, a member of staff cannot keep confidential information regarding rape and sexual assault unless they are working within a formal counselling or medical setting. City will support any student wishing to make a report to the local police station, with which City has a good working relationship.

The Student Counselling Service (and the Student Health Service) are not subject to this duty to report and so do offer confidential support within their normal code of practice.

Useful contacts

  • Ashford Hospital - London Road - Ashford - 01784 884488
  • St Peter's Hospital - Guildford Road - Chertsey - 01932 872000
  • Family Planning Clinic - Grove Health Centre - Church Road - Egham - 01784 477677
  • Rape Crisis Centre - 0171 837 1600 - or - 0171 916 5466
  • Survivors (male rape) - 0171 833 3737
  • Police Domestic Violence Unit - 01932 846 823
  • Police Station - Egham - 01932 845 544
  • Egham Well Woman Clinic - 01784 452 347
  • Pregnancy Advice Centre - 0171 637 8962
  • Brook Advisory Service - 0171 617 8000
  • LIFE (Pregnancy Care) - 01926 311 511
  • National AIDS Helpline - 0800 567 123
  • Surrey & East Hants Aids Link - 01483 300150
  • Lesbian Line - weekday evenings until 10.00 pm - 0181 992 5522
  • The Havens
    Camberwell  - 020 7346 1599 from 9:00 to 17:00; 020 7737 4000 at all other times
    Paddington  - 020 7886 1101 from 9:00 to 17:00; 020 7886 6666 at all other times
    Whitechapel  - 020 7247 4787 at any time