30/11/2009

Festive Rape Awareness Highlighted

As the Christmas party season gets underway, police have launched a campaign to raise awareness of rape and warn female partygoers not to make themselves easy targets for rapists.

The campaign, led by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), begins today and features radio and television adverts, along with local rape awareness campaigns across the country.

The ads - Rape: short word, long sentence - coincide with the start of the Christmas party season, which brings with it the potential for an increase in rape and sexual assaults as more people are out drinking large amounts of alcohol and leaving themselves vulnerable.

Dave Whatton, Chief Constable of Cheshire and the ACPO lead on rape, said: "A large proportion of reported rape cases feature alcohol as a factor - whether it is consumed by the victim of the offender.

"The Christmas party season is obviously a key concern for us which is why we have embarked on this awareness campaign.

Ultimately we want to prevent rape from occurring in the first place, by arming potential victims with key advice on how to keep themselves safe.
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"But we are also aware of the sad reality that many victims of rape remain silent. It is critical that these victims come forward and report cases and know that there are specialist agencies available to them to support them through their ordeal. The police service has been working hard to improve our own response to rape victims to ensure that by working with them and support agencies we can build the best possible case to bring offenders to justice."

Mr Whatton continued: "Rape ruins lives. It has devastating and often long-lasting consequences not only for the victim, but also their families and loved ones. Those convicted of offences can face lengthy jail terms along with being placed on the national sex offenders register for life."

Given excessive consumption of alcohol is a common feature of rape cases, the campaign aims to prevent people, in particular women falling victim by educating them on the simple steps that they can take to keep themselves safe on a night out.

The ads, which are set in a bar, feature the perspective of a female victim of rape and from the perspective of a male rapist.

They feature key messages to encourage victims to come forward and report rape to police as well as highlighting the specialist support which is available to them. The campaign also looks to raise awareness, particularly among men, of the need to seek consent for sex.

The campaign has been welcomed by Rape Crisis and The Survivors Trust.

Just this past weekend, an East Belfast MLA, Robin Newton has praised the prompt action of the PSNI in the arrest of a 21-year-old man following an alleged rape.

"This was a horrific crime and the very quick performance in making an arrest must be welcomed," he said, but noted that the police will still need all the help they can get from the public.

See: Sex Attacker Arrest Welcomed

(KMcA/BMcc)

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