Community Safety agencies are launching a campaign this week, warning young women about how they can minimise their risk of being the victim of sexual assault or rape.
The campaign follows three separate sexual attacks in the borough, and young women are being targeted with the Community Safety message ‘Rape – let your hair down, not your guard’. The key advice to women is to:
* Stay with friends
* Watch what you drink
* Plan a safe journey home
The messages are being relayed via Bluetooth and posters, which will be distributed to pubs, clubs and late-night takeaway venues around the borough.
Potential rapists are also being warned that rape is a serious crime, and that perpetrators will face serious consequences for committing rape. Posters, carrying the message: ‘Rape – short word, long sentence’, are also being put up in pubs and clubs.
The Safer Swindon bus will be parked on Henry Street from 10.00pm – 2.00am on Thursday 19 August (the evening that ‘A’ level results are announced), as well as over the bank holiday weekend. The bus will be equipped with a paramedic and triage facilities, and street pastors will also be on hand, as capable guardians, to spot and support vulnerable women. They will help them to taxi ranks, along with taxi marshalls, and if needed hand out useful accessories to ensure a safe passage home.
Door staff at pubs and clubs will also be on the lookout for vulnerable young women, liaising with Pubwatch staff and the police to help keep potential victims safe.
Superintendent Kier Pritchard, from the police in Swindon, said: ‘We’re taking swift action in response to recent sexual attacks, and working with our partners to raise awareness about the risk of rape, particularly amongst younger women. We need young women to be aware and cautious about their safety – to take simple steps to avoid being alone and vulnerable after a night out. Rape and sexual assaults are a serious crime, and we also want to make perpetrators aware that they will face severe penalties if they commit rape’
Frances Mayes, Acting Head of Health Inequalities said: ‘We entirely support the Community Safety Partnerships campaign to raise awareness of this issue. We advocate that people should not put themselves in vulnerable situations, often after consuming too much alcohol or not planning how to get home safely.
‘However if you have been sexually assaulted, the New Swindon Sanctuary Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) is a safe place for all victims of sexual assault, no matter what your gender, sexual orientation, or age. Those who have been sexually assaulted can get help, support and care, without police involvement if this is their wish. SARC helps more and more victims of rape and sexual assault take back control of their lives and rebuild their confidence, in a non judgmental environment.’
The police are advising anyone to call them on 999 if they find themselves in a risky situation and are afraid. People who are victims of a sexual assault or rape are also urged to report the incident and seek treatment by contacting SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre, 24-hour helpline 0808 168 0024), a partnership between NHS Swindon and Wiltshire Police. SARC offers immediate support from trained professionals, and onward referral to other appropriate agencies.
In addition, anyone with any information about any sexual assault can contact the police in confidence on 0845 408 7000, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where information can be left anonymously.