30/09/2010

Sex Attacks Get Ministers' Attention

A campaign to increase understanding and awareness in relation to consensual sex is to be re-launched by Stormont Ministers in Northern Ireland this autumn.

Focussing on students in higher and further education, the aim of the campaign is two-fold: to reinforce the message that non-consensual sex is a crime and to raise awareness of how alcohol can impact judgement.

It is being sponsored by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Department of Justice, the Department for Employment and Learning, and the PSNI.

The campaign, which runs from 30 September until the end of November 2010, comprises a banner message that will be carried on all computers in higher education institutions and further education colleges across the province.

It will be followed by a poster campaign where advertisements will be placed in washrooms of clubs and pubs frequented by students.

NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: "This message is extremely important as it raises awareness among young people of the very serious nature of sex where consent is not given. Young people are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime.

"The campaign will encourage students to protect themselves and ensure that victims of sexual violence and abuse know they are not alone and should come forward to get the help they require," he said.

The campaign also aims to increase understanding of the criminal law in relation to consensual sex.
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Justice Minister David Ford said: "Going into third level education is an exciting time for young people who have a greater degree of freedom than ever before.

"It is important that they keep themselves safe and show respect to others and this campaign makes it very clear that sex without consent is a crime which carries very serious consequences," he said.

"The message is very clear, 'No' means 'No' and anyone who doesn't respect that will find themselves facing the full rigours of the law."

Also commenting, the Stormont Employment and Learning Minister, Reg Empey said: "With the start of a new term at our universities and colleges, this campaign is a timely reminder to both new and returning students of the respect that they must show to others, Students should be aware of their responsibilities regarding sexual activity and of the right of the individual to exercise personal choice in these matters."

Highlighting the dangers associated with excess alcohol consumption, Chief Inspector Don Glass from the PSNI Serious Crime Branch said: "The beginning of the academic year is a busy time socially with lots of young people out and about.

"People should protect themselves and act responsibly. Alcohol will affect your judgement. Look after each other, know how you're getting home, don't walk home alone at night and above all, make sure consent exists.

"As the banner message on computer screens within the Universities and FE Colleges highlights 'sex without consent is a crime' and this can subsequently lead to convictions that will have life changing implications for the victim and the accused."

See: www.nidirect.gov.uk/wrong

(BMcC/GK)

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