What’s on the line? Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week

Today sees the start of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness week here in the UK.  Sexual violence is the term we use to describe any sexual act which is unwanted.  One example of sexual violence is female genital mutilation – you may be aware that the UK has seen its first conviction for at the Old Bailey in the past week.  Female genital mutilation (FGM), is internationally recognised as a human rights violation and is illegal in the UK.

The World Health Organisation describes FGM as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.  FGM is usually carried out on girls aged between infancy and 15 years old and causes a wide range of long-term physical health problems including severe bleeding, problems urinating, infertility and increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, as well as severe psychological trauma.  It is immensely painful and runs a high risk of infection and even death.  FGM has no health benefits.  Its effects are lifelong and life-changing.

GSM is not as rare in the UK as we may like to believe.  The NSPCC state that there are around 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM in England and Wales alone.  It is performed for different cultural, religious and social reasons, including to ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity afterwards, and to increase male sexual pleasure.  It can also be seen as a signifier of a girl’s initiation into womanhood and some communities view the female genitalia as dirty and ugly.  Females at risk of FGM may be taken to other countries to have the procedure performed, or it may be done illegally within families and communities in the UK.


What to do if you suspect someone is at risk of female genital mutilation: 

  • If you believe that someone is at immediate risk of FGM, call the police on 999.
  • If you know someone who has undergone or is at risk from FGM, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email [email protected]
  • If the victim has already been taken abroad, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500
  • You can of course call the Healthwatch Essex Information and Signposting Team on 0300 500 1895, text us on 07712 395 398 or email us at [email protected] if you would like further information on other support and assistance available.



Information  & Signposting Lead