Police have launched a campaign to raise awareness of consent and encourage people to ‘step up’ and help prevent sexual assaults, in particular those linked to the night-time economy.
It comes after a poll revealed seven in 10 people would feel comfortable intervening if they saw inappropriate sexual behaviour while on a night out.
The campaign follows initiatives like ‘Ask for Angela’ which is aimed at putting preventative measures in place to stop people becoming victims of sexual assault.
The ‘step up’ initiative works on the same principle as other bystander campaigns that have helped to reduce sexual assaults linked to the night-time economy. People are encouraged to ‘step in’ and intervene if they see a situation where they believe someone’s behaviour is inappropriate and could lead to a sexual assault.
Detective Inspector Kate Anderson, who leads the force’s Rape Investigation Team, said: “This campaign is about empowering bystanders to ‘step in’ if they feel someone’s behaviour is inappropriate or they are concerned for someone’s welfare.
“We know there have been cases where men and women, particularly teenagers and those in their early 20s, on a night out have been targeted by offenders who have isolated people from their friendship group and sexually assaulted and raped them.
“This is about empowering people to step up and speak out, creating a hostile environment for offenders. Everyone has the right to go out and enjoy themselves without fear that they will be subjected to sexual violence, assaults and sexualised comments.
“We are asking people to provide a united front and have the confidence to speak up if they see someone whose behaviour is not appropriate or check on the welfare of someone they feel may be the target for unwanted attention. Many licensed premises have members of staff who have been trained to help in these circumstances, if you feel unable to approach a person directly.
“Serious sexual assault is a force priority and we remain focused on targeting offenders and ensuring they are brought to justice, but we want to do everything we can to try and stop people becoming victims in the first place.”
Bystander campaigns have been successful worldwide and resulted in fewer offences.
Over the past year (November 2016 – November 2017) there has been 1,506 serious sexual offences reported, an increase of 21.5 per cent compared to the previous year.
Police will be working with bars and nightclubs over the coming weeks as well as rolling out a public awareness campaign to promote the ‘step up’ message.
A spokesperson for the Security Industry Authority said: “The Security Industry Authority will definitely be sharing these important messages with our 300,000 license holders.
“SIA licensed staff – particularly door supervisors – are often in an excellent position to intervene safely if they see troubling behaviour.
“People on a night out who feel threatened or uncomfortable should be able to approach licensed staff in the expectation that they will get the assistance that they need.”