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Legal definition


Penile penetration of a child under 13 years is automatically rape whether the child believes they consented or not. No matter what you said, what you signed, how you responded or how your body reacted, a child of 13 years and under cannot give consent to sexual interactions with anyone. It is an offence for children under 16 to engage in sexual activity, to protect vulnerable children.


There is no single offence of ‘childhood sexual abuse’, however the Sexual Offences Act includes the following offences:


  • Rape of a child: To penetrate with a penis the vagina, anus or mouth of a person aged under 13 years.

  • Assault by Penetration: To penetrate sexually the vagina or anus with any part of a body (human or animal) or object.

  • Sexual activity with a child under 16.

  • To cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity: To cause or incite a child to observe any sexual activity; or to groom or to procure a child with intention to commit the above; child abuse through prostitution or pornography

  • Grooming a child with the intention of sexually abusing that child.


For legal advice contact Rights of Women: www.rightsofwomen.org.uk


Family law: 020 7251 6577   

Criminal law: 020 7251 8887

Women in London: 020 7608 1137

Immigration and asylum law: 020 7490 7689 


For more information about offences against children contact: www.cps.gov.uk



Find details of local Rape Crisis helplines and services near you.

Freephone 0808 802 9999

12:00 - 14:30 daily

19:00 - 21:30 daily



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