Sexual Abuse

“A sexual assault can range from inappropriate touching, to a life-threatening attack, rape or any other penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus. It's a myth that victims of sexual assault always look battered and bruised.

If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator”. 

[Sexual Assault page on NHS Choices website]


Sexual abuse can be a part of domestic abuse, where a person is forced to engage in sexual activity, watch sexual acts or perform in degrading ways. Rape and sexual assault are crimes, whether or not they take place within marriage or between people who are or have been intimate partners, or family members.

If you’re under 18 and you have been manipulated by someone into doing sexual things for them, or for someone else’s benefit then this is called child sexual exploitation (CSE) and it is against the law. No matter what has happened or what you have done and no matter what your abuser might tell you sexual exploitation is never the fault of the victim, so don't be afraid to ask for help.

If you are concerned a child or young person is at risk of or experiencing sexual abuse through exploitation contact Bedfordshire Police Child Sexual Exploitation team or Luton Safeguarding Children's Board.

You can also find out more about CSE and what to do if you suspect it's happening to you (or to someone you know) from the NSPCC or call on 0800 1111.

Stop It Now! UK and Ireland is a campaign that aims to stop child sexual abuse and exploitation by encouraging abusers and potential abusers to seek help and by giving adults the information they need to protect children and young people effectively. The have a freephone helpline 0808 1000 900.


Support for victims of sexual abuse

If it is an emergency dial 999. If you are badly injured, go to your local A&E unit; this may be the Luton and Dunstable Hospital

Bedfordshire police have a trained, dedicated team who will contact you and offer support and guidance; for more see their website page on Sexual Assault

Anyone of any age or gender can contact the following national support organisations: Rape Crisis, the National Domestic Violence Helpline (24 hours a day) or the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre.

Locally, the Hope Programme offers support to women and men across the county over the age of 13 through a number of safe and secure locations.  Support includes emotional support, 1-2-1 counselling, mentoring and training.  The Hope helpline, 0300 365 1045, is available from 8am to 10pm (callers out of those hours will receive a reply between 8am - 6pm the following day).  Non-abusing partners and family members are also supported.  Follow the Hope Programme on Twitter.

Other organisations aimed at specific groups (eg children, LGBT community) are listed at the bottom of this page.


Health Advice

The Luton & Dunstable Hospital department of Genito Urinary Medicine offers support and health advice for those who have suffered rape or sexual assault, and no referral is necessary. Your GP or another health professional can offer support and give advice and guidance.

Teenagers can find out more on the This is Abuse Sexual Abuse pageThe Hideout or AskBrook.

The Survivors Trust works with people who are victims or survivors of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse. 

The NSPCC has produced a booklet on protecting a child from sexual abuse, and what to do if it does happen.