Serious sexual offences campaign launched ahead of start of Christmas party season (17 Nov 2015)

Sso _flirt 4_700Ahead of the Christmas party season, West Yorkshire Police is highlighting the nature of rape and other sexual offences reported to the Force in a bid to reduce the number of crimes being committed.

Over the festive period, police forces nationally tend to see an increase in reports of rape and other sexual offences.

Work has been undertaken to understand the sexual offences involving people aged 16 and over reported over a 12 month period to West Yorkshire Police. It was found that in approximately half the reported serious sexual offences, the perpetrator and victim were described as 'acquaintances', in some cases having met in a bar or club in the hours before the offence has taken place. Alcohol was also consistently shown to be a strong influence, with the majority of serious sexual offences happening on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between 12 midnight and 7am.

Police have developed a series of posters to be displayed in shops, bars and clubs across West Yorkshire highlighting that activities such as walking someone home or sharing a kiss aren't a crime, but rape is.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: "People have a lot of misconceptions about what rape is and where the boundaries are in terms of consent.

"It is worth stressing that stranger rapes are extremely rare with the vast majority of offences happening within a relationship or where the victim and perpetrator are friends or acquaintances.

"This campaign is about highlighting that whether two people have shared a flirtation or have previously been intimate, it makes no difference, the only important thing is that both people give consent at that time. Consent is also about saying yes, not not saying no."

Police are keen to make people think about the difference between consensual sexual contact and rape as well as being mindful of other sexual offences, prior to going out.

"We are not just targeting late night venues, we want people to be thinking about their personal safety and the safety of others before they start drinking," ACC Foster added.

"This is why we will also be working with retailers in the run-up to Christmas and asking them to also support our awareness campaign. We hope that when people are out socialising or stocking up on supplies, our posters might just make them think about their own actions and encourage them to look out for others."

Sue Widdowson, Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) Manager, said: "Unfortunately we see on a daily basis the devastating effect of rape and other sexual assaults.

"We find that some victims put blame on themselves or feel that it is perceived by others that they were in some way at fault either by having 'led the other person on' or from leaving themselves vulnerable through drink. I cannot stress enough that it is always the perpetrator who is at fault. As this campaign highlights, we all have the right to share a dance or a kiss with someone but to decide ourselves where the line is."

The West Yorkshire SARC was opened earlier this year offering victims of sexual offences both medical and emotional support in one place.

Sue Widdowson added: "If anyone has been a victim or rape or serious sexual assault we would urge them to contact the West Yorkshire SARC on 01924 298954 where they will receive a caring and sympathetic response. Our service is available to male and female victims over the age of 16 years whether they are police referrals or victims who elect not to report to the police.

"We offer confidential help and support to any victim of rape or serious sexual assault. This is a free, non-judgemental service providing victims with advice and guidance around their emotional and practical needs as well as addressing their healthcare needs."

West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said:

"Rape and other sexual offences are heinous crimes which have a long lasting impact on the victims. It's vital that we do everything we can to stop these crimes and help people understand that if someone doesn't say yes that means they haven't consented. Rape is a crime and perpetrators will be punished.

"I hope this campaign helps people on a night out think about what rape is, and how that innocent dance in the club isn't consent for sex or that flirty kiss at the Christmas party doesn't mean anything else will automatically follow.

"I am delighted that we were able to establish the dedicated Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in West Yorkshire earlier this year - this was long overdue and a real milestone in providing support for victims of sexual offences. The SARC has only been open a short time but I know already that it is helping to make a real difference to victims who are getting the best possible support and care."

More information about the campaign and personal safety advice is available on the West Yorkshire Police website at: www.westyorkshire.police.uk/staysafe

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2018