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Cumbria Police launch Rape and Serious Sexual Offences awareness campaign.

Written by on 06/09/2021

Today (Monday 6th September), Cumbria Constabulary launch a dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) awareness campaign.

Titled, ‘Your Choice’, the campaign was designed by the Constabulary with the support of the University of Cumbria and their Students’ Union.

The focus of the campaign is to educate young adults about RASSO; empowering them with the knowledge that they have a choice of confidential support services they can access should they find themselves the victim of rape or a sexual assault. The highlighted support services can be accessed 24/7 regardless of whether a crime has just been committed or is historic.

The campaign content will feature on University of Cumbria’s intranet pages, screensavers and E-newsletter, the posters will be featured across campuses on the backs of rest room doors and places of high footfall.

The Constabulary will also be attending Welcome Week events on two of the University of Cumbria’s campuses to raise awareness of this campaign.

Additionally, the campaign poster and content is available for any business who wishes to support the campaign, with multiple night time economy venues and higher education establishments showing support.

The campaign has also been supported by partners including the Police and Crime Commissioner, Cumbria Pride, The Bridgeway, Victim Support, Safety Net, CPS, Women Community Matters, NHS services, various higher educational establishments across Cumbria and more.

Information on the following topics will be highlighted throughout the campaign on Constabulary’s and partners social media channels:

Rape and sexual assault offences
What is consent
How to access local rape and sexual assault victim support services
Campaigns by University of Cumbria Students’ Union and the Crown Prosecution Service will be promoted by the Constabulary during September, providing important RASSO information.

The Students’ Union campaign will focus on consent, education and support and the CPS will focus on the power of personal impact statements in sentencing hearings.

Between January 1st 2021 and September 2nd 2021 (the date this data was compiled) there were x RASSO incidents reported to Cumbria Constabulary:

175 rape crimes
224 other sexual offences
78 N100 reports
N100 ensures that all reported incidents of rape or attempted rapes, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties which are not immediately recorded as a confirmed crime must be recorded under this classification at the time the report is initially made to the relevant force this includes reports made by third parties, through partnership working or from other agencies.
The majority of rapes and other sexual offences occur where the offender is known to the victim, stranger rapes are rare.

Detective Chief Inspector Vicki Coombes said:

“Rape and serious sexual offences are life changing. They can devastate individuals, their families, and the wider community.

“We are focusing this campaign on young adults, as we have received feedback from that age group, that confidence in reporting a crime and accessing support services could be improved. Feedback also suggests that some 18-25-year-olds are not sure what happened to them due to myths around consent. We needed to proactively address this feedback and build confidence in knowledge, reporting and accessing support services.

“That’s why campaigns like this one are so important to run. There are so many myths when it comes to consent. We are working with the Cumbria University’s Student Union during this campaign to really engage young adults with the key information they need.

“Consent needs to be given knowingly, fully and freely, every time. If someone is scared, intimidated, or intoxicated through drink or drugs then consent often can’t be given.

“I would urge people to ensure that they have full consent of anyone they are intimate with or they will face the life changing consequences.

“Whilst this campaign is targeted at young people, the information is relevant to everyone: it is important that everyone knows what RASSO offences are, and the services available to support them should they need them.”

Emma Bales, Director of Student Services, University of Cumbria, said:

“We are excited to support University of Cumbria Students’ Union in working with Cumbria Police on this important campaign. The welfare and wellbeing of our students is our highest priority, so providing them with resources and access to support is vital, as is having the conversation about consent at the start of their journey as a student. We are looking forward to working with UCSU and Cumbria Police to help promote this message across our university community.”

Molly Mcconnell, Welfare Officer, University of Cumbria Students’ Union (UCSU) said:

“UCSU is delighted to be supporting Cumbria Police with this campaign. It’s vital to promote and discuss the issue of consent, and to signpost access to support and resources, especially for people moving home, starting a new challenge at university and navigating new relationships. We’re looking forward to promoting and sharing this message with our student members.”

Donna Cardell, Manager and Examiner at the Bridgeway, Sexual Assault Referral Centre, said,

“Sexual consent is where a person has the ability and freedom to agree to sexual activity. The person seeking or initiating sex is responsible for getting the consent.

“Only a clear, affirmative, freely-given “yes” indicates consent and consent can be withdrawn at any time.

“Sex without consent is rape.

“If you feel that you haven’t given consent to sexual activity please feel free to call The Bridgeway at any time.

“We are here to support you and can help you decide what, if anything, you want to do next.

“There are differing options available to you, as well as reporting to the police you can also discuss coming to The Bridgeway as a self-referral. Visit our website at www.thebridgeway.org.uk or call on 0800 118 6432.”

Lee Evans, Area Manager for Victim Support said,

“Rape and sexual assault is not a topic we commonly talk about, and there are loads of myths and misconceptions which make people think that it could not and would not happen to them. However, as the statistics show this is not the case, it can happen to anybody.

“As well as being traumatic, many people feel confused or embarrassing and we often hear victims blaming themselves and wondering if it was their fault.

“Rape is not OK and it is never the fault of the victim, if there is no consent then it is rape.

“We want anybody reading this to know that if you have found yourself in that position, no matter how long ago and you want to speak to somebody independent, then we have experienced and dedicated Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVA)who are here for you.

“ISVA’s will talk through your choices and options with you, they will support you to report to the police if you wish to do so and will support you through the criminal justice process and be with you every step of the way.”

Vanessa Dixon, CEO Birchall Trust

“Here at The Birchall Trust, we believe sexual assault is never ok. we should live in a society that is free of sexual abuse, rape, exploitation and sexualised violence.

“Although some survivors may stay silent for years before sharing their stories, the act is in no way shape or form acceptable.

“The world today is changing, but unfortunately, sexual assault is still happening every single day. People are beginning to talk about it more, but it is still not reaching a point where there is a solution.

“As long as sexual harassment and assault continues to happen and as long as people out there still think it is even slightly okay, then everyone is still in danger of this happening to them.

“The Birchall Trust empowers people affected by rape, sexual abuse or sexualised violence to recover from their trauma so they can lead safe and fulfilling lives through the provision of support, pre-trial therapy, counselling , education and training across South Cumbria and can be contacted on 01229 820828 or via their website www.birchalltrust.org.uk.”

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said:

“There are so many misconceptions around consent, rape and sexual assault which is why this campaign and consent education is so important.

“The message is clear: ‘No’ means no and not being able to give consent also means ‘no’.

“I would always urge anyone who has suffered this horrific crime to report it to the Police but I understand that this isn’t always what people want to do.

“This is why I commission services in Cumbria to help victims cope and recover.

“By calling Victim Support at 0300 303 0157 they can help or signpost you to the service that can best help.

“Please do not suffer in silence – there is always help available.”

Howard Gough, Head of the CPS North West Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit, said,

“Rape and serious sexual offences are some of the most serious cases we encounter. They have devastating effects on victims as well as their families and the wider community.

“Allegations of rape often involve one person’s word against another, but the law is clear, that if one person does not consent to sexual activity – with the freedom and capacity to give that consent – and the other person doesn’t reasonably believe there is consent – then it is an offence.

“Our specialist prosecutors are dedicated to working closely with police colleagues to build the strongest possible cases and to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice.”

To keep up-to-date with the campaign’s information please visit the Constabulary’s dedicated Rape and Sexual Assault page: https://www.cumbria.police.uk/Rape

Or follow their social media accounts:

Facebook /cumbriapolice

Twitter @cumbriapolice

Instagram @cumbriacops

You can also follow the #CPYourChoices

For free, confidential information, advice and support you can call Victim Support 24/7 on 0300 303 0157 or LiveChat us through www.victimsupport.org.uk.

To report a crime contact Cumbria police on 101. Always dial 999 in an emergency.