A second conference hosted by Avon and Somerset Police, aims to help raise awareness of the issue of male rape and the devastating impact this has on victims and their families.
The conference - Male Rape and Sexual Assault – Changing Perceptions 2 – will be held at Police Headquarters in Portishead on Wednesday (3/2) and will feature a range of speakers from charities and organisations who will focus on raising awareness of the crime, identifying the needs of victims and professionalising a partnership approach to tackling the crime and support those affected.
Speakers will include representatives from SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Assault Support), Bristol Drugs Project, Diversity Trust, the Southmead Project, Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens and Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Crew.
Today also marks the start of the first-ever Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, supported by a number of charities including SurvivorsUK, Rape Crisis England and Wales and the NSPCC.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “I am delighted to once again be asked to speak at this conference to help raise awareness of the effects of male rape and sexual assault. It is important that we take the time to highlight the help and support available for victims of this terrible crime, not only during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week but all year round.
“I am committed to continuing to look at ways sexual abuse victims can be helped and with the protection for victim services funding for another year we can secure the invaluable service provided by our Independent Sexual Violence Advisors who support men women and children. I also co-commission The Bridge Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) which offers support to men, women and children of these crimes.
“Tackling domestic and sexual abuse is one of my priorities for the Constabulary after local people told me that it is a crime that matters most to them. Domestic and sexual violence is taken very seriously across Avon and Somerset and I want all victims to know that when they approach the Police or any other agency, they will be believed, understood and taken seriously.”
The awareness week will feature heavily on social media using the hashtag #ITSNOTOK
PC Mike Steven, who is leading the Force’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness of male rape and sexual assault and improve services for victims, has organised the internal conference following the success of the inaugural event last summer.
PC Mike Steven said: “This conference is very much about looking at why victims don’t report offences to us and the damaging effects of not speaking out, including drug or alcohol addiction and in some cases suicide.
“I’ve been working closely with local charities and organisations since we started the awareness raising campaign in 2014, to find out what the barriers are to victims reporting offences and how we can help overcome them.
“The theme of the first-ever national awareness week is getting home the message that all forms of sexual abuse and violence are unacceptable and we should have a zero tolerance of it.
“It’s also a call for adequate services to support victims to encourage reporting, which is what we’re committed to doing in the Avon and Somerset Force area.
“Throughout the past 15 months we’ve been working with our partner agencies and local and national charities to identify where we can do better, as well as find ways to increase confidence and raise awareness among the public – this included the launch of our ‘Can you keep a secret...you shouldn’t have to’ campaign at last year’s Bristol Pride, encouraging people to think about why we need to break the silence.
“We’ve also worked on developing our microsite thisisnotanexcuse.org whichprovides links to specific support agencies and services for men, as well as information which could help tackle some of the common concerns victims may have when considering whether to contact the police.
“We have cases going through court at the moment involving victims of male rape and I hope this demonstrates that victims will be listened to, believed and respected and we will bring about charges when we have the evidence to do so.”
Supt Rachel Williams, who leads the Force’s delivery group for continuous improvement in relation to police investigation of rape and sexual assault, said: “Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people reporting rape and this includes reports from victims who are men.
“However, rape and sexual assault remains under reported and we’re committed to addressing any concerns people may have about making a report to police.
“Through work led by the delivery group, we aim to challenge perceptions about who this crime effects, show that police will listen, believe, respect victims and continue to raise confidence so anyone affected by rape and sexual assault feels able to seek help.
“Through working in partnership with local services, we will always offer as much support to victims as we can.”
For more information about the national awareness week visit www.sexualabuseandsexualviolenceawarenessweek.org or follow @itsnotok2016
Available 24/7, 365 days a year, The Bridge provide medical care and emotional and practical support to anyone affected by rape and sexual assault. You can call The Bridge for help and decide about talking to the police later.
Information for men can be found online at www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk/men
Posted on Monday 1st February 2016