Police sex assault campaign challenges offenders

05/10/2012

Sex offenders, who delude themselves by thinking they have done absolutely nothing wrong, are the targets of a hard-hitting publicity campaign being launched by West Midlands Police.

On Monday, a powerful set of adverts will begin to appear in bars and clubs, in addition to buses and trains, across the West Midlands aimed specifically at offenders and potential offenders.

The 'no excuse' ads form part of a wider push to raise awareness of what actually constitutes a sexual assault and to encourage victims to report crimes to police.

They will shatter misconceptions about what is or is not a crime and will drive home the consequences of committing a serious sexual offence.

Backing the campaign is rape victim 'Louise', who has spoken of how a man she met in a Walsall club later raped her in a park before acting 'as though nothing had happened'. He was later jailed for six years.

The 23-year-old, whose identity is being protected, decided to tell her story in an effort to reassure other victims about how seriously reports are taken and the wide variety of support that is available.

Her video interview forms part of another strand to the campaign - an updated section of the West Midlands Police website, developed to provide victims with the information and confidence they need to report offences to the authorities.

The messages are two-fold - there are absolutely no excuses for offenders and the force is totally committed to getting justice for victims.

It is believed that the rather unconventional focus of the advertising - on offenders, rather than victims - will challenge perceptions around what sexual assault really means.

The launch of the campaign comes at a time of the year when the force anticipates a possible rise in the number of serious sexual assaults, based on previous crime trends.

Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Hyde, who leads the team of officers who investigate sexual assaults, said: "Much of the time offenders dont even realise what they've done is a crime and are almost delusional about what has happened.

"They think because their victim doesn't say 'no' or doesn't physically try to resist the attack, that they are therefore consenting to sex, but that is absolutely no excuse.

"The aim of our campaign is to highlight the consequences of this type of crime, such as lengthy prison sentences, the restrictions on future job opportunities and oversees travel, as well as the shame of friends and family discovering that youre a sex offender."

While the thrust of the visual advertising is aimed at offenders, it is hoped Louise's story, which will be told via the website and through the forces social media channels, will resonate with victims.

Chief Supt. Hyde added: "We have specially trained officers on duty 24 hours a day, who can support victims throughout the whole process, from the moment they contact us.

"Many victims don't want to report the matter to us and it's for a number of reasons such as self-blame or a lack of confidence in the police.

"There are, on average, 40 serious sexual assaults reported to police each week in the West Midlands, but we know the real figure is much higher than this.

"Victims have got to have the confidence to come forward and I really hope Louise's story helps them to do this."

Statistics show that if a rape or serious sexual assault is reported to West Midlands Police within 24 hours, it doubles the chances of finding the person responsible.

Furthermore, when the criminal justice process begins, victims can be confident that they will receive a great deal of support from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Hayley Firman, Head of the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service Public Protection Unit, explained: "Every case of rape is now handled by a rape specialist who will advise and have responsibility for that case from the pre-charge advice through to the case at court.

"There are variety things a court can do to enable the victims and witnesses experience in court to be more comfortable to help them give the best evidence possible. If granted by the Judge a witness can give evidence behind a screen in court, give evidence over a live TV link or have the original video recorded interview with the police played as their evidence in chief.

"As a matter of law, victims of rape and serious sexual offence are entitled to anonymity in the media, even if their name is given in court. Witnesses addresses are not disclosed to defendants and will not, as a rule, be mentioned in the court room.

"Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAS) are a network of advisors who are set up to assist, provide advice and support to victims throughout the prosecution process."