Was it rape?

A young person is on their phone outside asking for support for rape

T/W This article includes references to rape

Something happened with a person you know? Or maybe with a person you don’t know? If it just happened and you’re asking yourself, ‘was it rape?’, you’re probably still in shock. Make sure you’re somewhere safe, and then try and work out what you want to do next. We’re here to help you take things at your own pace.

The most important thing we can tell you at this point is this – this was not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, how much you drank, whether you were flirting, or if you were a bit careless about your personal safety. Don’t blame yourself in any way, no matter what the circumstances.

You did not ask to be raped. The rapist is entirely responsible – not you.

Was I raped?

‘Was I raped?’ might seem like an odd question, but it’s common to feel confused as to whether you were raped or not – most likely because you knew your rapist. They may be a friend, an ex-partner, a colleague, or even your current partner – rape is rarely something that a stranger does to you. In fact, 90% of rape victims knew their attacker previously; it’s important to know this so you understand you’re not alone.

Don’t think that just because you know them means you won’t be believed. It doesn’t matter how well you know them, or what they’ve said to you, if you didn’t consent – it was rape. Read our article on busting rape myths to find out more.

If you didn’t consent, it’s rape

Perhaps drugs or alcohol impaired your capacity to consent. Even if it wasn’t drug assisted rape (where someone purposefully spikes your drink in order to take advantage of you), if you are incapacitated by drink and/or drugs, you cannot consent to sexual activity. Physical force is not required for it to be rape.

In the UK, Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) provide a range of immediate and long-term support options to victims of rape and sexual assault.

Learn more about consent laws in the UK here.

I’m a man and I’ve been raped

Male rape happens too. It may not be as talked about, but that doesn’t mean you’re the only one. If you’re male, it may be reassuring to know there are specific organisations, such as SurvivorsUK and Mankind UK, that can help you too.

What do I do?

The most important thing you can do is tell someone you trust. They can help you through some of the decisions you need to make. If you can’t bear to tell someone you know, then ring the Rape Crisis helpline on 0808 802 9999. You’ll be able to talk through your options with someone in confidence. You can also talk to us in confidence or text our 24/7 crisis messenger.

The big question to ask yourself is: What’s the best thing for me to do? How am I best going to get through this?

Don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to – you have already been through a lot. We do suggest going to your local sexual assault referral centre if you have one. They are experienced at dealing with this and won’t put any pressure on you. If you choose to, they can take the necessary swabs for evidence purposes, and then store it for you if you decide to take legal action in the future.

Should I report my rape?

Again, don’t feel any pressure here. It’s not your fault or problem if your attacker does this to someone else, so please don’t let people saying that upset you. It’s only the rapist’s fault, it’s only their problem.

If you do decide to go to police, if possible:

  • Don’t wash or brush your teeth.
  • Don’t eat or drink.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Try not to change your clothes, or keep them to one side safely.
  • Try not to go to the loo.
  • Don’t clean up the area where the rape took place.

Don’t worry if you’ve done some of this already. Evidence can still be collected and injuries still noted.

I’m scared I’ve not reacted in the right way

There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to react to being raped. You may think it’s only rape if you burst into tears straight afterwards and ring the police. This is simply not true. You may feel a number of different things – denial, disbelief, guilt, mad at yourself, shock, or just a determination to carry on like nothing happened. You may continue being friends with your rapist, or not get upset for days or weeks afterwards. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape, or that you won’t be believed if you do eventually tell somebody.

I’m not ready to call it rape yet

That’s ok. You’ve gone through a traumatic ordeal. No one else can label what happened to you except you. Remember, you’ll put more pressure on yourself if you have to deal with this alone. If you have a friend or family member that you trust, speak to them about it.

If you’re under 19, Childline provides help and support through their free helpline. Rape Crisis can also lend a helping hand, and offer advice and support. If you ever change your mind and want to report your rape, remember that you always can. Many people don’t report their rape for weeks or months, so it’s never too late.

Will I ever get over being raped?

It’s important, if you can, to get some counselling or therapy to help you through this time. There’s absolutely no shame in that and it’s helpful to talk to someone who completely understands your position. Rape Crisis can help you organise this.

In the long-term, you may experience flashbacks; certain situations can trigger these. Having a supportive network of family, friends, and additional support from Rape Crisis is really important. We’ve also got an article on how to be intimate after rape with more support.

Don’t feel any pressure to ‘be over it’ by a certain point, or worry that you should or shouldn’t be feeling a certain way. “The wound will heal, but it’s likely there will always be a scar,” says Jo Wood, a rape and sexual abuse centre worker.

But, hopefully, with counselling, you will find whatever works for you so you can live your life and not let this define who you are.

You might find there’s a waiting list to get counselling on the NHS, so if you’ve experienced rape or sexual assault and need support, get in touch with our team, who are here to listen and support you without judgement.

Next Steps

  • Join The Mix's Support Circle for survivors where everyone takes turns to get support while the rest of the group listens. Support Circle is a safe, welcoming, non-judgmental space. Thursdays 8-9.30pm.
  • Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Holly Turner

Updated on 28-Apr-2023