Alex's Answer

What is sexual assault

Your Question

What counts as sexual assault? Can anything happen if it happened in a foreign country? 


Hi there, you are very welcome to Ask Alex.  


Thank you for getting in touch. We understand it’s not always easy to chat about what’s on our mind, so well done for reaching out.  


Sexual violence is any sexual act which takes place without freely given consent or where someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity. The age of consent in Ireland is 17 years and this is the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts. 

You have asked about what counts as sexual assault. Sexual assault is an act of physical assault that has a sexual aspect or motivation. It includes groping; forcibly kissing someone or any non-consensual sexual activity that does not involve penetration.  


If you have been sexually assaulted in another country, then you might be feeling alone, confused and unsure of where you can go for help, but there are people who can help. If you are still in the country where the assault took place, the Irish Embassy or Consulate is there to help. They can support you in accessing appropriate services. It may be advisable to go to the hospital immediately after the assault and to report the assault to the police and get a police report. 


You should be aware that cultural and social attitudes to rape and sexual assault victims may vary in different countries. Your local Irish Embassy or Consulate can provide you with impartial advice in this regard. The Irish Embassy will also be able to help you to deal with the local police in that country, and put you in touch with an English speaking lawyer. They can contact your family and help with arrangements for you to go back to Ireland, if that’s what you want. They can also try to put you in contact with counselling services in the country where the incident took place. If that’s not possible, they can assist you to access an Irish counselling service. 


If you have been sexually assaulted in another country and are back in Ireland, you can report this to An Garda Síochána. You can do this by calling 112/999 in the case of an emergency, or by contacting your local Garda Station in person or by telephone. Complaints of child abuse can also be made over the phone and in a confidential manner 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the Child Sexual Abuse Freephone number on 1800 555 222. Rape crisis centres throughout the country also offer advice and support services to victims of rape and sexual assault. You can contact the national 24-hour helpline at 1800 77 88 88 or find information on your nearest Rape Crisis Centre here: 


‘Finding Your Way After Sexual Violence’ is a useful guide which you can access here: . This online guide aims to support anyone affected on this difficult journey with information on accessing a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, reporting to the Gardaí, and navigating the courts and legal process. The guide is trauma-informed, with a focus on understanding how these processes may make you feel and how to seek support following sexual violence. 


You may also want to think about reaching out to an adult you can trust, so that you do not feel alone through this. A parent, carer, teacher or guidance counsellor will be able to support you through this. 

If you don’t feel like talking to someone you know, Childline is also here to help. Our services are free, confidential and non-judgemental and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can contact Childline by phone on 1800 66 66 66 or through our web chat on, just click on the Live Chat tab.

Thanks for contacting us. Remember, you do not have to go through this journey alone, there are people who can support you.


Take care of yourself,  


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