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What is assault?

An assault is when someone physically attacks you, or threatens to attack you.

A teenage girl is supported by two friends

Assault might include things like being pushed, shoved, punched or kicked, and can even involve weapons.

 

For example if someone hits you with a bottle or threatens to stab you with a knife.

 

What does the law say about assault?

According to the law there are several different types of assault, which may depend on how someone hurt you, or how badly you were injured. The main types of assault are:

  • Common assault – when someone uses force, such as pushing or slapping, or makes threats of violence.
  • Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) – when you are injured, for example bruised, scratched or bitten, as the result of an assault.
  • Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) – when you are seriously injured in an assault, such as being stabbed.
  • Sexual assault and rape – these are types of sexual abuse, when someone forces you to have sex (rape) or touches you in a sexual way when you don’t want them to (sexual assault). You can find more information about sexual assault and rape in the Understanding sex crimes section of this website.
  • Domestic violence and relationship abuse – these are the terms used to describe an assault by your boyfriend or girlfriend, or former partner.
  • Hate crime – this is what happens when someone assaults you because of your identity (such as your race, religion, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability). The police take hate crime very seriously, and if the crime leads to a trial, the offender may be given a longer sentence because the assault was motivated by hate.

Even if the attack doesn’t result in physical injuries, it can still be regarded as an assault. Incidents can happen anywhere – at home, at school, in the street – and often the victim knows the person who attacks them. And whether you are physically hurt or not, being assaulted can have a big effect on you emotionally.

Why do I feel like this?

It can be extremely frightening to be the victim of an assault. As well as possibly being hurt or injured physically, you can be very seriously affected emotionally. Many people find it hard to deal with the feeling of being powerless when they are threatened. Other common feelings include:

  • You may find it hard to believe what has happened, and feel numb.
  • You could feel deeply upset.
  • You may feel like your life is completely out of control.
  • You might be having physical symptoms such as ‘the shakes’, sleeplessness or crying all the time.
  • You may feel extremely angry towards your attacker.
  • You may even blame yourself for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All of these reactions, and more, are completely normal responses to being a victim of violence. The important thing to remember is that it’s not your fault – you haven’t done anything wrong, and it’s the person who has assaulted you who is to blame, as no-one has the right to hurt or threaten you.

What can I do?

Being a victim of assault can leave you feeling worried, scared, sad or angry, especially if you feel like you are trying to cope with what has happened on your own. But lots of young people find that it helps if they can talk to someone, and some things you can do are:

  • Tell an adult you trust. This could include a teacher, a family member, your youth worker or support worker. Tell them what’s happened, and ask for their help and advice.
  • Think about reporting it to the police. If you think you are at immediate risk of getting hurt, call 999.
  • Go to see a doctor or attend accident and emergency department at hospital if you have been injured and need immediate attention. 
  • If you’re worried or feel unsafe because of what’s happened, talk to your trusted adult about developing a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe in the future.
  • Write down what has happened soon after the event including times and dates.
  • Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult. 

If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help

Who can help me?

You&Co – you can talk to one of our support workers on a one-to-one basis, and we can offer you help and support. We can give you advice on how crime can affect you and how to cope with it, what to do and what to expect if you decide to report a crime to police, and how to move on from being a victim of crime.  You can find out about the support available nearest to you on this website.

ChildLine – ChildLine offer 24-hour support for young people, both on the phone and through online chats and message boards, on crime, safety and a range of other issues; call 0800 1111.

The Mix – this website provides information and support for 16-25 year olds on a whole range of issues, including rape and sexual assault as well as safe sexual relationships. Get confidential help by telephone, email, text or webchat, for young people under 25; call 0808 808 4994.

Crimestoppers – If you want to provide information about a crime without talking to the police, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Hear about Paul's experience

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