Forces across the country are working to tackle rape and sexual assault offences with a series of prevention and awareness campaigns.
The police campaigns complement the Home Office central rape prevention campaign www.thisisabuse.com and offer advice for victims, busts myths about rape and helps identify abusive behaviour.
The work on rape prevention by forces will continue into 2013 and beyond.
In a blog, published today, ACPO lead on adult sex offences Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said the work formed just one part of the policing approach to preventing and handling sex crimes.
"In almost any other area of crime, prevention is the central element of our approach. In relation to adult sexual offences, and particularly rape, we have, for understandable reasons placed great emphasis on the investigation process and our joint victim care with partners," he said.
"This is incredibly important work and I will be driving hard for us to continue to improve the service we provide, especially with colleagues in Health and the Crown Prosecution Service. But it is not enough. If we accept that perhaps that only 30 per cent of victims ever formally report a rape or serious sexual offence, then the vast majority of victims never receive this service. Where we can help them is by working to control as many factors as possible in an attempt to prevent offences in the first place."
DAC Hewitt said police would be increasing their effectiveness of responding to rape crimes by:
- Managing offenders
- Managing dangerous places
- Delivering effective investigations and CJ outcomes
- Reducing vulnerabilities (of victims)
"We want to do everything we can to protect people and reduce vulnerabilities which we know offenders look to exploit. Getting this message right is difficult: we acknowledge that police failings in the past have damaged confidence, and that some campaigns run by the police on rape prevention have been criticised because of their focus on potential victims, rather than offenders.
"But we are very clear that alongside the other aspects of our approach, protecting people is a critical part of the police's duty. There are practical steps that people can take to reduce their vulnerability. Education about this does not in any way remove the sole culpability for crime from those who commit it."
The rape awareness and prevention campaigns currently underway include:
The Home Office campaign www.thisisabuse.com aims to prevent young people from becoming victims and perpetrators of rape and sexual violence. It is designed to encourage young people to re-think their views of rape, sexual assault and consent. Research from the first launch of the campaign in March found that:
- 69% agreed the campaign 'makes me more likely to tell someone or seek help if they had been a victim'.
- 83% agree that the campaign 'makes me more likely to do something about an abusive relationship if I or a friend was in one'.
- While most teenagers know that rape is wrong, they don't always know what constitutes rape. Many believe it only occurs on rare occasions and consider rape as a 'violent attack on a stranger', rather than something that could occur in their own relationships.
- Teen experiences are more likely to lead to acceptance of abusive and violent behaviour in later adult relationships.
Detective Inspector Ross McDermott, who heads Norfolk Constabulary's Rape Unit, said: "Rape is rape and there are no excuses, there is no grey area. Men need to understand that if a woman says no or is incapable of consenting, for instance through drink or drugs, they are committing a criminal offence.
"If there is any doubt the likelihood is that you are committing rape and therefore hold yourself up to being arrested, convicted in a court of law and potentially placed on the Sex Offenders Register.
"Don't let your festive night out turn into a life sentence."
Cheshire Constabulary: has launched Rape Shatters Lives campaign.
South Wales: is supporting the Home Office campaign along with targeted school's liaison work in local schools, including 'Safer Relationship' lessons.
Metropolitan Police: launched My Decision campaign: http://www.mydecision.co.uk/
Mydecision.co.uk was created as a step-by-step guide for anyone who has, or knows someone who has, been raped or sexually assaulted. It takes the user through all their options; from who to contact, to the type of care they will receive, how evidence will be collected, making a report, the investigation and their ability to control the process
Lancashire police: has launched Operation Nexus - a campaign aimed at potential offenders detailing the medical procedures carried out to collect evidence of a sexual assault.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil Esseen, Lancashire Constabulary, said: "It does not matter what a victim is wearing, how much they have had to drink or if there has been physical contact already - no means no and if there is no consent then there should be no sex. Alcohol can impair the ability of a person to give that proper consent - so if in doubt, don't.
"This latest campaign has been launched during the festive period to highlight the fact that Lancashire Constabulary is committed to tackling rape and serious sexual assault, and the campaign is very much aimed at prevention."
For more information, help and advice on how Lancashire Constabulary deal with reports of rape and sexual assaults visit www.lancashire.police.uk/operation-nexus .
Hertfordshire Police: has launched Operation Advisory a campaign with the message: Nobody asks to be sexually assaulted or raped. There's never any excuse. If there's no consent, it's a crime.
Lincolnshire Police: recently launched a county sexual violence and awareness campaign, the "No Means No!" campaign. It points out that statistics show a stark link between alcohol and rape and hopes to encourage people to drink responsibly. However, a key issue for the campaign is to promote the fact that alcohol can never be used as an excuse for sexual violence. Recent figures from the forces Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Spring Lodge, show around 25% of victims were 14 - 17 years of age, around 50% were under 20, 67% of victims and 53% of perpetrators were in drink at the time of the offence, and that 25% were domestic abuse related.