‘My life now is unrecognisable from what it was before, to how it is now”
Hampshire police this week have released a moving video of a rape victim talking about how her life has changed after being attacked in 2009. The woman speaks out to fellow rape victims, general members of the public and prospective perpetrators to give a frank account about the devastating effects of rape and sexual assault. This is all part of their Rape Awareness Week, which is being held to alert the public to the issues surrounding rape, sexual consent, and professional help by Hampshire Constabulary. The video has been placed on YouTube, and can also be viewed at the end of this article.
Detective Inspector Ben Snuggs said,
“We, along with our partners, want to raise awareness of the current issues of rape and sexual assault and provide people with the information to help prevent them from becoming a victim, encourage those who have been sexually assaulted to report it and give details of where to go for help and support.
“At all times the campaign seeks to reassure victims that anyone who reports a sexual assault will be treated with dignity and respect and that all reports are taken very seriously and dealt with in a sensitive, professional and non-judgemental way.”
Students at Southampton University are often reminded of personal safety when socialising or going about their daily routine. Buying a personal alarm, walking in groups in the evening and taking a taxi instead of taking a shortcut are just some of the ways that we have been advised to stay safe an avoid assault in the city and surrounding areas. But Hampshire Police are keen to cover all circumstances when raising awareness, and it is key to remember that rape does not just happen to a lonely girl walking through a park at 3am after a night out with friends.
The victim speaking in the video was attacked after having her drink spiked on a night out by a complete stranger. But the shocking statistic is that nearly half of rapes reported to the Hampshire police force are ‘acquaintance’ rapes. 47% of victims attacked by someone they knew were raped by an acquaintance, and 29% raped by a partner. These numbers highlight the idea of ‘no means no’, and the subject of sexual consent, which have been the subject of debate for years, with countless online forums and articles covering controversial trials and assaults. The topic of rape within a relationship is just one example of assault that can be argued by some to be ‘vague’, due to the already intimate nature of the connection between victim and perpetrator. But Southampton’s Rape Awareness Week highlights that this circumstance does not change the seriousness of the offence.
The rise of acquaintance rapes are not alone, though, with the number reported incidents rising during the summer months, corresponding with the lighter evenings and later nights out. Alcohol and drugs play a large part in incidents such as rape, on both the part of the victim and the attacker; and with the student population often being associated with these things it does not come as a surprise that students are being encouraged to think about the subject more and more. The Wessex Scene have reported on numerous assaults over the years, and it is clear that the subject should be kept at the forefront of our minds.
Detective Inspector Snuggs also commented on the idea of consent, and what constitutes rape:
“Consent to have sexual intercourse should be actively made by both parties involved. Both individuals should have the freedom and ability to make the decision to have sex. If this ability to consent is not there or consent is withdrawn at any point but sex still takes place then this is rape.
“It is vital to understand that anything less than a yes is a no, no matter the circumstances. Not being sure cannot be used as an excuse.”
Hampshire Constabulary’s Rape Awareness Week is taking place between July 23rd and July 27th, with a different focus on each day. Supporting a victim and collecting evidence, court processes and local safety and services are just some of the subjects to be covered over the week.
SUSU’s own VP Welfare and Communities, Chloe Green, has also posted a blog about Rape Awareness week, which can be found HERE.
Information on Rape Awareness Week and other campaigns can be found on Hampshire Constabulary’s Facebook page.
For more information on the laws on rape and issues around consent visit www.dontcrosstheline.co.uk[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUGRKD_mgJ8[/youtube]