A notice about cookies

This website uses cookies. Some cookies may have been set already. To find out more about our use of cookies you can visit our Privacy policy. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.


This is a prototype - your feedback will help us to improve it.


What is Sexual Violence?

Published: 20 March 2019
From: Department of Justice and Equality


Rape is defined as unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman who at the time of intercourse does not consent to it, where the man knows that she does not consent to the intercourse, or he is reckless as to whether she does or does not consent to it.

Sexual intercourse for the purposes of rape means vaginal intercourse. Rape is by definition only committed when a man has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent.

Rape under Section 4

This is defined as a sexual assault that includes penetration (however slight) of the anus or mouth by the penis, or penetration (however slight) of the vagina by any objects held or manipulated by another person.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

This is sexual assault aggravated by serious violence, or the threat of serious violence, or is such as to cause severe injury, humiliation or degradation of a grave nature to the victim.

Sexual Assault

This is a sexual attack with a less serious level of violence than aggravated sexual assault. There are two parts to this offence: there must be intentional assault, and an aura of indecency.

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse means forcing or manipulating a child to take part in sexual activity, which is always inappropriate for a child. Examples of child sexual abuse include the following:

  • any sexual act intentionally performed in the presence of a child
  • an invitation to sexual touching or intentional touching or molesting of a child’s body whether by a person or object for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification
  • masturbation in the presence of a child or the involvement of a child in an act of masturbation
  • sexual intercourse with a child, whether oral, vaginal or anal
  • sexual exploitation of a child, which includes: Inviting, inducing or coercing a child to engage in prostitution or the production of child pornography [for example, exhibition, modelling or posing for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or sexual act, including its recording (on film, videotape or other media) or the manipulation, for those purposes, of an image by computer or other means]
  • inviting, coercing or inducing a child to participate in, or to observe, any sexual, indecent or obscene act
  • showing sexually explicit material to children, which is often a feature of the ‘grooming’ process by perpetrators of abuse
  • exposing a child to inappropriate or abusive material through information and communication technology
  • consensual sexual activity involving an adult and an underage person


Incest is sexual intercourse between a man and his granddaughter, daughter, sister or mother, or between a woman and her grandfather, father, brother or son.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation is defined as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any practice that purposely changes or injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is internationally recognised as a human rights violation of women and girls.

Other Sexual Crimes

Please note that attempting, aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or inciting the commission of many sexual offences is also an offence.

There are a range of other sexual crimes, including crimes of trafficking adults or children for sexual purposes.

Sexual Harassment

The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 define harassment as unwanted conduct which is related to any of the 9 discriminatory grounds. Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. In both cases it is defined as conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person and it is prohibited under the Acts. Complaints in relation to sexual harassment can be brought to the Workplace Relations Commission.

Part of