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Definition of Abuse


Abuse can take many forms. The abused person, and even the abuser, may not realise that abuse is being committed. The most widely recognised forms of abuse are physical and sexual. Other forms of abuse include neglect, financial, psychological, discriminatory, domestic and institutional.

What is rape?

A person commits rape if they intentionally penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with their penis without consent.

What is sexual assault?

A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent.

What is a serious sexual assault?

Assault by penetration – a person commits assault by penetration if they intentionally penetrate the vagina or anus of another person with a part of the body or anything else, without their consent.


Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines consent for the purposes of Sections 1-79.

Below are extracts from the legal definition that will help to explain this area of the law:

‘A person consents if they agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice’.

This definition is relevant to many sections of the Sexual Offences Act including the offence of rape (Section 1).  The section refers to a person’s capacity to make a choice. A person might not have sufficient capacity because of his age or because of a mental disorder.

The amount someone has had to drink can also affect a person’s ability to consent.

Other kinds of abuse can include:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Forced marriage
  • Neglect
  • Financial Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse
  • Discriminatory Abuse  
  • DomesticAbuse
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Trafficking
  • Online grooming
  • Sexual harassment

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