Rape awareness campaign launched by Cambridgeshire police

After a series of troubling incidents, the police have decided a campaign is necessary

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The month-long campaign will be looking at consent, highlighting the services available to victims and “bust[ing] some myths” associated with rape.

A spokesperson for the police told The Tab: “Many people don’t understand what consent is and believe the absence of a ‘no’ is consent.”

“Things like inability to consent through intoxication or coercing people into committing sexual acts is not consent.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. You are right.

The campaign comes after a string of incidents of sexual assault in Cambridge, including the conviction of three Libyan soldiers for sexual assault, as well as a troubling survey by CUSU found that 8.4% of women are attempted assault victims. This is defined as the attempt to penetrate someone orally, vaginally or anally with genitalia, fingers or an object.

Detective Inspector Leigh Allman, manager of the Rape Investigation Team (RIT), explained: “The first week of the campaign highlights that rape is not contained to stranger rape scenarios … We want to deliver the clear message that ‘only yes means yes’ anything else is no, and sex without consent [yes] is rape.”

Another campaign poster from the police.

Cambridge students have been exposed to similar campaigns since most colleges run sexual consent workshops during freshers week. Such workshops hit the headlines after a Warwick student wrote an article against consent classes, saying this is not what a rapist actually looks like.

This is also not constructive for anyone.

“The University, and the Women’s Campaign, has long supported educational workshops addressing consent”, CUSU Women’s Officer Charlotte Chorley told The Tab.

“I’m encouraged by the recent initiative by the Cambridgeshire Constabulary to raise awareness of sexual violence and assault.

“The investment in this campaign is certainly a positive step, although I’m not sure as to how far intersectional issues are factored into the content and delivery.”

The campaign Cambridge for Consent was also formed last year, to “celebrate and promote” sexual consent.

Its founder, Rowan Douglas, said that the campaign “looks like a pretty exciting development for consent awareness in the police force. It’s not entirely clear how they’re hoping to achieve their aims, but, if done well, it has the potential to be really powerful”.

Cambridge for Consent’s teal ribbon campaign launched last year.

A question mark still remains over how effective these campaigns are. Although attendance is low at some consent workshops, Chorley explained, “The efficacy of these workshops cannot be quantified, in the sense that reporting is incredibly low, so we can never be certain of how many assaults are occurring or being reported.”

She added that “we are certain that there is a new level of consciousness around consent, and its nuances”.

The Wilberforce Society, a student policy-making body, is partnering up with End Rape on Campus to draft a report on both the effectiveness of these workshops and sexual harassment policies in the University. Expect to see a survey asking you for your thoughts on the workshops over the next few weeks. 

You can find more information and support about reporting sexual assault here.