Avon and Somerset Police are running a campaign to raise awareness and increase confidence in reporting rape and serious sexual assault, with the launch of a video aimed at reaching victims who are men.
Although reports of rape and sexual assault have increased over the past few years, with almost double the number of men now contacting police than in 2010, it is recognised that many victims feel unable to come forward, with estimates suggesting less than 1 in 10 male victims report rape and sexual assault.
As part of the campaign, police are looking to highlight the message that for both men and women, being pressured or forced to have sex or take part in sexual activity when you don’t want to is a crime. There is no excuse for rape and sexual assault and the victim is never to blame.
Superintendent Sarah Crew, Force Lead for rape and sexual assault, said: “Reporting rape or sexual assault takes a huge amount of courage. Talking about what’s happened can often be one of the most difficult things those who’ve been raped or sexually assaulted have to do.
“For men who are victims of rape and sexual assault, we understand there may be a number of reasons why they feel unable to contact the police.
“We want to talk openly about the concerns which may be holding victims back from reporting rape and sexual assault so that more men and women feel able to seek help and support and report these crimes to us.
“Officers working in our specialist investigation team, known as ‘Operation Bluestone’, are dedicated to supporting victims of sexual violence and will do everything they can to make sure you receive the best possible care and support.
“If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, no matter what the circumstances or who was involved, remember that it wasn’t your fault. You will be believed.”
A campaign video, which is being promoted across social networks, features the voice of a rape survivor and aims to highlight that for all victims help and support is available.
The one minute clip directs people to visit the website thisisnotanexcuse.org – a site which looks to dispel the myths that surround rape and sexual assault and offer advice and information for both men and women, alongside details of support agencies available to male and female victims.
Watch the video here.
A feature has also been added to the force website containing a series of video clips in which an officer gives their responses to questions some victims may have before coming forward. Read more here.
Michael May from Survivors UK, an organisation which supports male victims, said: “For many men, an experience of sexual violation creates a feeling of having been ‘un-maled’ – that they have failed to meet internal and societal definitions of masculinity.
“Our own experience is that if these men feel that they can be seen and heard without being judged, they are much more likely to come forward.
“This project takes a very important step to achieving that in Avon and Somerset and I hope that more police forces will emulate this important work.”
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, said: “One of my four priorities is tackling sexual violence and we can’t forget that men are at risk of this just as women and children are.
“I support this campaign in helping to raise awareness of the issue and telling victims support is available for them.
“It’s important that men know where to turn to for help if they need it and that they will be listened to and taken seriously. Sexual assault has a devastating impact on all victims.”
If you are a victim of rape or sexual assault, or you know someone who is, you can contact the police on 101 or online through the force website. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, call 999 for immediate support and assistance.
If you don’t want to talk with the police, there are a number of support organisations who you can contact. To speak to someone in confidence and find out what help is available for you, call The Bridge on 0117 3426999. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day.