'We Can Stop It': Rape awareness


In Scotland the law relating to rape concentrates more on what ‘consent’ means and the fact consent can be withdrawn at any time. In addition, sexual attacks on men have been legally classed as ‘rape’ for the very first time.  

We believe together we can stop rape. Do you?

'We can stop it' is a simple message from Police Scotland and partners is part of an on-going nationwide campaign aimed at challenging perceptions and raising awareness about rape.

We Can Stop It is supported by groups including Rape Crisis Scotland, ASSIST, Scottish Women’s Aid and White Ribbon Scotland aimed at raising awareness of what rape is, and educating young men, both heterosexual and homosexual into challenging their behaviours.

The campaign aims to provide confidence to anyone who thinks they are victim of a crime that earlier reporting increases the chances of offenders being traced.

What is rape?

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 states that rape occurs when a person intentionally or recklessly penetrates another person’s vagina, anus or mouth with their penis, where the victim does not consent and the person responsible has no reasonable belief that the victim is giving consent. 
In circumstances where penetration is initially consented to but consent is later withdrawn, the person responsible will have committed rape. 
The victim can be male or female.

What is consent?

Consent is defined as ‘free agreement’. The reason for this definition is that it captures circumstances where consent may be given due to some sort of coercion, violence or threat. Consent in these circumstances would not be freely given. 
In addition to this definition, the Act provides a list of situations where consent or ‘free agreement’ is deemed to be absent. These include: 
  • Where the victim is incapable of consenting because of the effect of alcohol or any other substance.
  • Where the victim is asleep or unconscious.
  • Where the victim agrees or submits to the conduct because of violence or threats of violence used against them, or any other person.

Note: Other situations may occur that are not on this list. This does not imply that consent is given. 

Withdrawing consent 

The Act also clarifies the position where consent is given then later withdrawn. It states the following: 
  • Consent to one type of conduct does not imply consent to any other type of conduct.
  • Consent to conduct may be withdrawn at any time. This can be before the conduct, or in the case of continuing conduct, during the conduct.
  • If the conduct takes place or continues to take place after consent has been withdrawn, it does so without consent.

Capacity to provide consent

Having the capacity to give consent is important. If the victim has any mental illness; personality disorder; or learning disability, however caused or manifested this must be acknowledged. Anyone is incapable of consenting to conduct if through their mental disorder they are unable to do one or more of the following: 
  • Understand what the conduct is.
  • Decide whether to engage in the conduct (or as to whether the conduct should take place).
  • Communicate any such decision.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault by penetration occurs when the person responsible intentionally or recklessly sexually penetrates the victim’s vagina or anus with any part of the body (e.g. fingers or anything else) where the victim does not consent and the person responsible has no reasonable belief that the victim is giving consent. 
Both the perpetrator and victim may be male or female. 
Sexual assault occurs when any of the following separate sexual acts take place and only if the victim did not consent to the sexual conduct. The person responsible must have had no reason to believe the victim was consenting and must act intentionally or recklessly when carrying out one of these acts. 
  • Penetrating the victim’s vagina, anus or mouth by any means in a sexual way.
  • Touching the victim in a sexual way.
  • Having any other sexual physical contact with the victim, whether directly or through clothing and whether with a body part or implement.
  • Ejaculating semen onto the victim.
  • Emitting urine or saliva onto the victim sexually.
Both the perpetrator and victim may be male or female. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about rape.

Did you know?

Many people associate rape with a violent assault by a stranger in a dark alley; in fact most rapes are carried out by a partner, acquaintance, friend or date. 

You might be surprised to learn that: 

  • Nearly one in four women worldwide may experience sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (WHO, 2002).
  • Most serious sexual assualts are carried out by a man known to the woman - 86% of victims said they knew the offender in some way (Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2010 – 2011).
  • A third of teenage girls in a relationship suffer an unwanted sexual act (NSPCC survey, 2009).
  • 40% of young people know girls whose boyfriends have coerced or pressurised them to have sex (EVAW, 2006).
  • Conservative estimates indicate alcohol is prevalent in 34% of reported rape cases, and drugs in 12% of cases (Finch and Munroe, 2006).
  • The victim is male in approximately 8% of all recorded rape cases however the actual number is thought to be higher (Stern Review, 2010).
  • The UK charity Mankind estimates 3 in 20 men are victims of sexual violence (Stern Review, 2010).

No matter what the circumstances are, sex without consent is rape. 

We can stop it.

The campaign is supported by a number of partners.

Sandie Barton, National Co-Coordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland said:

“We are delighted to see “We Can Stop It” going from strength to strength. This campaign plays a valuable role in helping people to understand what rape actually is, and in raising public awareness.

“The law is clear: sex without consent is rape, and we need to make sure the Scottish public understand that.’We Can Stop It' speaks directly to men and offers a very positive message - that rape is preventable, and men can play a positive role in making this happen.”

For  ASSIST Head of Service  Mhairi McGowan said:

“We talk to people every day who have been raped by a partner or ex-partner, sometimes recently, sometimes a long time ago, so we are very pleased to support this campaign.

“We must work together as a society to ensure the message that rape is unacceptable is heard loud and clear by everyone and We Can Stop it will play a huge part. I’m sure most men don’t – we need to make sure we change that to all men.

ForWomen’s Aid Lily Greenan Manager, said:

“Rape and sexual assault are among the least reported crimes in Scotland today and this campaign to raise awareness of the issue is therefore very welcome. We think it is particularly important that the campaign involves men challenging other men in a positive way to make sure that their partner consents to sexual activity and commend Police Scotland for taking this approach."

The White Ribbon Scotland Campaign, which engages men in taking action to prevent violence against women, is supportive of the continued promotion of the We Can Stop It Campaign.

Campaign Coordinator, Callum Hendry, said:

‘White Ribbon Scotland welcomes the campaign as a positive way of engaging men as allies in preventing rape and sexual assault. The campaign materials help us in our work to educate men on exactly what constitutes consent, and to encourage men to play a key role as allies in challenging the attitudes and behaviours which condone or contribute to the continuing high levels of rape in Scotland.’

What can you do to help stop rape?

1. Take responsibility ...

Find out about the law regarding rape and understand that no matter what the circumstances are, sex without consent is rape. If there is any doubt about whether the person you’re with is consenting, don’t have sex.

2. Respect your sexual partner ... 

Listen to the other person and treat them with respect – effective communication is key to healthy sexual relationships. It’s important to talk to your partner and listen to their wishes.
Any kind of sexual act must be consensual – both partners should agree to it and be happy with it. 

3. Question your own attitudes ... 

Consider the messages you hear about how men should act and think about your own actions, attitudes and behaviours. 
Understand that behaviour, such as pub chat about a woman ‘asking for it’ because of what she is wearing, can perpetuate harmful attitudes towards sexism and sexual violence. 
Work towards positively changing attitudes. Choose what kind of guy you want to be. 

4. Stand up for your beliefs ...

It’s easy to look the other way or keep quiet about your opinions. Don’t. Challenge attitudes that disturb you. For example, if a friend makes a joke about rape, tell them it’s not funny. More often than not you’ll find others share your opinion.   

5. Be proactive ...

If you’re with friends and become aware of a situation developing, don’t stay silent. For example where one or both parties are too drunk to have consensual sex, go and have a quiet word with your friend. It might feel awkward and difficult to intervene, but you are looking out for them in what could potentially be a risky situation. 
Also, if you see a similar situation arising outwith your group of friends, tell someone in authority, for example a bartender or door steward. 

6. Be supportive ...

If you know or suspect someone close to you has been abused or sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help, offer them your support and encourage them to contact the police. There are also a range of support organisations which can help. 

7. Speak up ...

If you know someone is abusing their partner, don’t ignore it. If you feel able to do so, talk to them and urge them to seek help. There are many support organisations that can offer advice. 
You can report abuse by contacting your local police office or anonymously via Crimestoppers. In an emergency always dial 999. 

8. Get involved ...

Support the campaign.
Further information about our campaign will appear on the Police Scotland website; on Twitter @PoliceScotland and Facebook:www.facebook.com/PoliceScotland

Related Documents

PDF files on this page require a PDF reader, such as the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (download).

If you would like this information in an alternative format or language - please phone us on 101 to discuss your needs.