We have lots of different relationships. We have friendships, family relationships and intimate partners which can range from a steady relationship to a one night stand. Most relationships have unwritten rules that keep them ticking over. We usually have expectations about how we should be treated in our relationships, and how we should treat others. For example, you may not continue a friendship with someone who puts you down and makes you feel bad.

Romantic or sexual relationships can sometimes be a bit more complicated. When you really fall for someone it can be hard to see the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

A healthy relationship involves trust, respect and equality. Some other ingredients of a healthy relationship are:

  • Feeling safe and comfortable with your partner
  • Valuing each other’s opinions – even if they are different
  • Supporting each other’s dreams and ambitions
  • Honesty and trust
  • Having other interests that don’t involve each other
  • Accepting each other’s friends and family
  • Making each other laugh
  • Only having sexual contact when both people want to
  • Accepting each other for who you are

Let's Talk

As human beings we are born communicators.  So why is it sometimes difficult to stand up for yourself, talk about feelings or let someone know what really turns you on?

Being an effective communicator can help you to build positive relationships.

In a romantic or sexual relationship it’s important to be able to tell you partner what you want and don’t want. Having the confidence to speak up about your boundaries, expectations, contraception and having sex can help you have a happier relationship.

It can feel more awkward talking to someone you don’t know, someone you’re attracted to or authority figures like police and doctors.

We sometimes struggle to communicate if we’re worried about being judged by other people, or when we think they might not like what we have to say. It may be harder to communicate when you’re in a group of people instead of one to one.

Our own feelings, and what we think people expect of us, can also get in the way of saying or showing what we really mean. Things like fear or embarrassment can impact on what you do or say. This can be especially true when it comes to talking about sex with a partner.

Low self-esteem and anxiety can also make us less able to tell someone what we really want to say.

Feeling like someone hasn’t understood you properly in the past may also stop you from wanting to communicate with them.

The situation you’re in can affect communication. If it’s loud it can be difficult to understand people, or to be understood. Not feeling comfortable or safe can be a barrier to communication, as can being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


Consent is a term used in Scots Law to describe both or all people involved in sexual activity giving their agreement to willingly participate in sex. Only people over the age of 16 are able to consent to sex. If you are under 16 click here for more information.

The law describes consent as being “free agreement” which means given in circumstances where there is no coercion involved. The law in Scotland also describes situations where free agreement has not taken place.

Free agreement cannot take place when:

  • An individual is incapable because of drink or drugs
  • There is violence or threat of violence
  • Someone is unlawfully detained
  • Someone is deceived as to nature of activity
  • Someone thinks the person they are having sex with is someone else
  • Sexual activity is agreed to by a third person
  • Someone is asleep or unconscious.


What sort of things should you consider before having a sexual relationship? It’s a good idea to ask:

  • Am I sure about this?
  • Do they want the same as me?
  • Do I feel safe?
  • Am I doing this because of other people’s expectations?

And of course it’s completely fine not to be interested in having a sexual relationship at all.

We can feel pressure to have sex from all sorts of people. It can come from a partner, from our friends, from our families or communities. We can even put pressure on ourselves to have sex to fit in with our ideas about what everyone else does or what kind of person we think we should be.

For some, choosing not to have sex can be a positive choice in their life. People can choose not to have sex for just one night, or for longer periods of time regardless of whether or not they are in a relationship.

Sometimes people have sex with someone and afterwards wish they hadn’t. If you feel you’ve made a mistake and feel down or worried, talking about your feeling of regret can help make you feel better and help you understand why you made your choice.

Whatever choice you want to make it’s important not to be pressured into doing something you don’t want to do. Remember you have a right to take charge of what happens to you and your body and to make your own choices. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t want to have sex but are not sure how to go about dealing with this then it can be very helpful to talk to someone about it.

Rape & Sexual Assault

If you have been sexually assaulted, it is important to remember that it wasn’t your fault. Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Don’t be afraid to get help.

If you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted, it’s understandable if you don’t know what to do or where to turn.

SARCS is a dedicated NHS service which can offer healthcare and support in the days after an assault, if you are not ready to tell the police or are unsure.

What options are available to me?

Police report

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can report it to the police at any time, in an emergency situation dial 999, non-emergencies dial 101,

Self-referral to a SARCS

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted within the last 7 days and do not want to tell the police or are unsure about telling them now – you can self-refer to a SARCS. This means you don’t need a GP or other healthcare professional to refer you to a SARCS – you can do this yourself.

You can phone a dedicated NHS telephone number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and speak to a specially trained healthcare professional who can help to arrange the care you might need.  

You can find more information about how to self-refer to a SARCS and the telephone number to call, on the NHS Inform website 

A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape (an assault involving penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth by the penis or another object), or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse or the torture of a person in a sexual manner.

Sexual assault is an act that is carried out without the victim’s active consent. This means they didn’t agree to it.

It is not uncommon for a victim of sexual assault to have no physical injuries or signs of their assault. But sexual assault is still a crime and can be reported to the police in the same way as other crimes.

Most sexual assaults are carried out by someone known to the victim. This could be a partner, former partner, relative, friend or colleague. The assault may happen in many places, but is usually in the victim’s home or the home of the alleged perpetrator or person carrying out the assault.

Remember…You Are Not to Blame… Even If:

  • Your attacker was an acquaintance, date, friend or partner
  • You have been sexually intimate with that person or with others before
  • You were drinking or using drugs
  • You froze and did not or could not say “no,” or were unable to fight back physically

Ways to Take Care of Yourself:

  • Get support from friends and family – try to identify people you trust to validate your feelings. Spend time with people who know your strengths and positive qualities. Try not to isolate yourself
  • Talk about the assault and express feelings – you can choose when, where, and with whom. You can also decide how much or how little to talk about