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Force’s reminder to freshers about consent

28 Sep 2020

The new educational year is now underway, and we are reminding students of the importance of consent, as well as highlighting the support available to victims of sexual assault.
 
We understand that young people will always want to make new friends and celebrate their time at college or university, but due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic, and social distancing requirements, the traditional large-scale freshers’ activities and events will not be taking place.
 
Instead, it is anticipated that the county’s pubs and bars will be visited by more students and, in light of recently imposed 10pm curfew on licensed premises to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection, there may be the temptation to hold house parties in breach of the “rule of six”.

Detective Chief Inspector Marie Gresswell, from our RASSO team, which investigates rape and sexual offences, said: “A person must have the freedom and capacity to consent to sexual activity of any kind.
 
“If someone is unable to give that consent, through the use of alcohol or drugs, anyone who pursues sex with them is committing a crime. Simply put, sex without consent is rape.
 
“We will continue to raise awareness and emphasise the importance of taking responsibility for personal safety, but for us, the message aimed at offenders is the same during freshers’ activities, as it is at any other time of year, and that is that no consent means no.
 
“We work alongside our partners to educate people about what constitutes consent. If someone has been drinking, or using drugs, and is not freely able to give their consent, then to pursue sex with them is a criminal act.
 
“A common misconception is that if someone is drunk, they can be more willing to engage in sexual activity, and this is something we are constantly challenging in all aspects of our work.
 
“Anyone, of any gender, who chooses to use any social event, whether or not linked to freshers, as an opportunity to target someone can expect that an investigation will follow. They must also consider that a criminal record involving a sexual offence is not a desirable attribute for any future employer.
 
“Bedfordshire is a great county to study and live in, but we would urge anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault to come forward and speak to us and they will be treated with sensitivity and respect.

"Our specially trained officers work closely with highly skilled, specialist and empathetic partners to ensure anyone who has experienced sexual assault can get the right support they need.”

Victims of rape and sexual assault will be given care and guidance by us together with our partner agencies, including the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), as well as support through the investigation process.

You can make a report by calling 101, or you can contact Bedfordshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) the Emerald Centre, by visiting www.emeraldcentre.org, emailing admin.emeraldcentre@nhs.net or calling 01234 842750.

Always call 999 in an emergency.
 
If you have been affected by crime, the Signpost Hub offers free and confidential support to victims in Bedfordshire, whether it has been reported to police or not, and irrespective of where and when the crime occurred.
 
Contact 0800 0282887 or visit www.signpostforbedfordshire.com for further information.

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