Understanding sexual violence in France

Choose your language:

This page provides partial and summarized information on sexual offenses in France, automatically translated from the English language.

In France, the laws concerning sexual offenses are probably not the same as in your own country. Here is some information to help you better understand French legislation.

Even if an oral or written agreement has been made, it is always possible at any time to stop a sexual relationship, before or during it.
If the other person does not stop the sexual relationship, he or she is committing a sexual offense.

In France, sexual relations committed with violence, coercion, threat or surprise are prohibited.
Each of these four terms is explained below.

A rape

Any sexual penetration or oral-genital act committed with violence, coercion, threat or surprise is rape.

Maximum penalty: 20 years’ imprisonment.

e.g.: penetration of a penis into a vagina or anus, penetration of a finger or object into a vagina or anus, fellatio, cunnilingus.

A sexual assault

All other sexual contacts committed with violence, coercion, threat or surprise are sexual assaults.

Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment and 150,000 euros fine.

e.g.: putting your hand on someone’s bottom, kissing on the mouth, etc.


All sexual relations between an adult and a person under the age of 15 are prohibited by law.

All sexual relations between an adult and a person under 18 are forbidden by law if the adult has authority over the minor, or if they have a close family relationship.

e.g.: a coach of a sports team with a minor from that team, a teacher with a minor pupil from the same school, etc.

Any pornographic representation of minors (photos, videos, drawings) is prohibited. It is forbidden to produce, buy, offer, exchange, search for or possess these images.

Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment and 500,000 euros fine.

Alcohol and drugs

Committing a sexual offense after consuming substances (alcohol, drugs, etc.) is an aggravating circumstance, meaning that the sentence incurred is heavier.

Sexually offensive language or behavior/Stalking/Homophobia

It is forbidden to impose on a person any comment or behavior with a sexual connotation that violates their dignity by being degrading or humiliating, or that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation.

Maximum penalty: 3 years’ imprisonment and 45,000 euros fine.

e.g.: whistling at someone in the street to let them know you think they’re sexy, make homophobic comments.


In France, it is forbidden to have sexual relations with a person who habitually engages in prostitution in exchange for money, a gift, a promise, etc.

Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment and 150,000 euros fine.

With violence, coercion, threat or surprise

With violence: when physical force is used (hitting or physically hurting someone) or psychological violence (giving orders, shouting, insulting).

With coercion: when someone is forced or prevented from doing certain things, or when psychological pressure and stratagem are used to abuse authority or someone’s vulnerability, for example because of age or health condition.

With threat: when someone is forced to have sexual relations under threat of reprisal or revenge.

With surprise: when you lie to obtain someone’s consent to have sex, or when you have sex with someone who can’t express their refusal (sleeping, drunk, drugged, etc.).

Where to find help?

You can go to a police station or call 112 or visit infovictimes.fr/en.

Awareness campaign

Poster 1 – YES means YES. NO means NO. When you don’t know, take it as a NO.
Poster 2 – In the dance of desire, consent is the fire.
Poster 3 – Connections, not transactions.
Poster 4 – Erase the fear, make homophobia disappear.
Tagline – Paris, city of love with consent
Play by the rules on sexual-violence.info
QR code redirects to sexual-violence.info

Who manages this website?

CRIAVS Ile-de-France, a public health establishment, in partnership with the nonprofit Association Une Vie.