#ItsNotOK - Police support Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week
Victims of sexual abuse and violence are being encouraged to speak out as Suffolk Constabulary supports a national week-long campaign to raise awareness and offer advice.
Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week takes place across the UK from Monday 3 February until Sunday 9 February using the hashtag #ItsNotOk.
Specialist providers of support to victims and survivors of sexual violence across Suffolk are teaming up and calling on organisations, individuals and agencies across the county to join them in saying ‘Suffolk says that all forms of sexual violence are not ok’. Anyone can suffer from sexual abuse or sexual violence – age, gender, sexual orientation, social status, race or religion are no barrier. Those living in remote areas may feel particularly vulnerable because of their isolation and it is known that that rural victims are less likely to report abuse. Raising awareness of this ‘hidden harm’ is a priority for police and partners.
Given that many people begin relationships online before then arranging to meet face to face, police are offering advice for the public, especially young people, to consider. Don't include too much personal information on your profile, wait until you are comfortable with someone before you share any sensitive information. Sometimes people use dating websites and apps with the sole purpose of taking advantage of those they contact.
If you do want to meet in person, remember that you are basically meeting a stranger so consider taking the following precautions:
- Don’t agree to meet somebody for the first time in a private place Always choose a public setting with other people around, that is well-lit and has good CCTV if possible as this creates a safer environment for a first date
- Tell somebody you trust that you are going to meet somebody new and confirm where and when you are going and what time you will be back
- Take a mobile phone with you and don’t leave drinks or belongings unattended
- Don’t be pressurised to stay if you feel uncomfortable
- Pre-plan your journey home from the meeting place and don’t accept a lift or being accompanied on foot
- Don’t drink too much alcohol
- Remember that no matter what the circumstances, sexual activity without consent is a crime
- In an emergency always call Police on 999
A public engagement event for #ItsNotOK is taking place in the atrium at Suffolk New College on Thursday 6 February from 9am to 3pm. Partners, support agencies and police staff will be available throughout the day and members of the public are invited to visit the stand for advice and information.
Both nationally and locally, forces have seen an increase in serious and complex crimes, including rape and sexual offences. The latest figures published by the Office of National Statistics show there was an increase in sexual offences in Suffolk of 11% (Figures cover 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019).
In the past few months there have been some significant sentences handed down to Suffolk perpetrators of sexual abuse and violence. Last month, January 2020, three men were jailed for a total of 38 years for committing sexual assaults, rapes and abuse.*
Temporary Detective Superintendent David Henderson, welcomed the campaign saying:
"The effect on victims of sexual abuse and violence can be devastating and long lasting. I hope that this week of awareness will reassure victims that police and partners are committed to delivering excellent services to survivors across Suffolk. We take all reports of this nature extremely seriously and will do everything we can to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice whilst signposting victims to the agencies that can be of greatest help in times of need.”
We understand that victims might not want to tell police immediately what has happened to them so the role of the SARC is crucial here, offering a service that means information can be given confidentially in a comfortable environment.”
"We continue to work hard to meet the needs of our rural and urban communities across Suffolk, keeping people safe.”
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said,
"I am extremely concerned about the increase of sexual offences both nationally and locally, this is a very worrying trend and we need to do all we can to address it. I provide funding to support victims of sexual abuse through Rape Crisis, Fresh Start – New beginnings and Survivors in Transition and it is important that all victims of sexual abuse and violence know help is available whether they want to report to the police or not.
"We need to continue working together to ensure support is available so victims feel confident to speak out and I am steadfast in my commitment to work with the Chief Constable and partners across the county to prevent and respond to sexual abuse.
"We all need to echo the hashtag of the campaign, #ItsNotOK.”
The SARC, called The Ferns, is jointly funded by Suffolk Constabulary and NHS England and has supported almost 3000 victims since it opened in 2011.
The centre provides ongoing specialist tailored support to victims through Crisis Workers and Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs). This includes medical examinations following a recent rape or sexual assault, which can be done without any police involvement. If, at any time, a victim decides to talk to police, this can be arranged. The Ferns also supports those who have suffered abuse in the past as well as providing impartial information to victims concerning their options, accessing health services such as sexual health screening and specialist support including counselling. ISVAs also provide information on other services the person may require including health and social care, housing, or benefits.
Anyone who would like to speak to someone in confidence about sexual abuse or violence can contact Suffolk Police on 101, or staff at The Ferns on 0300 1235058 or via email [email protected]
During the awareness week, Suffolk police are encouraging messages social media accounts using the hashtag #ItsNotOK
For further information, support and advice visit
www.survivorsintransition.co.uk Survivors in Transition - Specialist support in Suffolk for female and male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, violence and exploitation
www.fsnb.org.uk Fresh Start – New beginnings, provides a therapeutic service for children and young people up to 21 years who have reported being sexually abused and to offer support for their families.
www.suffolkrapecrisis.org.uk Suffolk Rape Crisis – Support service open to females aged 14 or above who needs support following a rape or sexual assault