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The guidance given in the second half of this section is limited to the things you can do to avoid becoming the victim of rape or other sexual offence while on a night out and is not intended to help those who find themselves in a long term violent relationship.     

If you have been or are the victim of rape or sexual assault or are in a long term violent relationship we hope you will feel strong enough to report the matter to the police. If you don’t feel able to do this you can still get emotional and practical help from the expert people who work for the organisations shown below. 

Whatever you do, please don’t suffer from this terrible crime in silence; there are people out there who want to help you.  Please get help urgently.

For women

Rape Crisis The national umbrella organisation for Rape Crisis Centres across the country. Freephone Helpline 0808 802 9999 12 - 2.30pm and 7 - 9.30pm

Victim Support   Victim Support is the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales, which was set up over 38 years ago to become the oldest and largest victims' organisation in the world. Link takes you to women specific page. Victim Supportline  0845 30 30 900

For men

Rape Crisis The national umbrella organisation for Rape Crisis Centres across the country. Freephone Helpline 0808 802 9999 12 - 2.30pm and 7 - 9.30pm

Survivors UK  A help line and support organisation for men who have suffered rape or sexual abuse.  Call 0845 122 1201 Monday & Tuesday between 7pm and 9.30pm or Thursday between 12pm and 2:30pm

Victim Support Victim Support is the independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales, which was set up over 38 years ago to become the oldest and largest victims' organisation in the world. Link takes you to men specific page. Victim Supportline  0845 30 30 900

Additional help

Brook    Offers free and confidential sexual health advice and contraception to young people under 25. Call 0808 802 1234

From Report to Court  A handbook for adult survivors of sexual violence

Terrence Higgins Trust   The largest voluntary sector provider of HIV and sexual health services in the UK, running services out of local centres across Great Britain.

Rape Aware A new website operated by Avon and Somerset Police developed to educate people about rape and sexual assault and to encourage them to come forward and report what has happened to them.

FPA (Family Planning Association) An organisation that promotes sexual health as a priority public health issue in the UK. Helpline Call 0845 122 8690 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday

Home Office report (2007) Cross Government Action Plan on Sexual Violence and Abuse

SEE ALSO Romance Scams  Help and advice for people who use online dating websites

Relevant legislation

Sexual Offences Act 2003

Wikipedia provides a synopsis of the main changes to sexual offences in England and Wales brought about by the Sexual Offices Act 2003

Some facts about rape and sexual assault*

  • Twenty three per cent of women and 3% of men experience sexual assault as an adult
  • Five per cent of women and 0.4% of men experience rape
  • Adult sexual violence and abuse is more likely to be experienced by
  • people with a disability
  • people involved in prostitution
  • people who have been abused as children
  • young women who have been drinking
  • Women are more worried about rape than any other crime
  • Thirty one per cent of children who are abused reach adulthood without having disclosed the abuse
  • Forty per cent of adults who are raped tell nobody about it
  • Only fifteen per cent of serious sexual offences against people aged 16 and over are reported to the police
  • Fewer than 6% of reported rape offences result in an offender being convicted
  • Ninety per cent of victims of rape and sexual assault know the person who committed the crime against them and many of them are partners or family members
  • Rape is associated with the most severe cases of domestic violence, and is a risk factor for domestic homicide
  • Fifty per cent of all sexual offences occur over the weekend
  • Because so few rapes and sexual offences are reported and the conviction rate is low it means that many of the people who commit these serious offences remain at large to commit further offences

*Various sources, including Home Office and Avon and Somerset Police

Avoiding rape and sexual assault on a night out

A Message for Men

Just because someone is flirting with you doesn’t mean they want to have sex with you.  Buying drinks for someone all night long is not an invitation to have sex. Being asked by someone to walk them home is not a request to have sex with them at the destination.

The person with whom you wish to have sex must agree by choice and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are clear about your intentions and get consent before you have sex and you must stop having sex immediately if your partner asks you to stop.

Anything less than a 'yes' is a 'no'

The maximum penalty upon conviction for rape in England and Wales is Life Imprisonment 

Planning your night out

  • Get your cash out during daylight hours so you have complete financial independence and can travel to your destination without detours, delay or reliance on others. (See also Taking Care at Cash-points)
  • Eat well before a night out
  • Don’t forget to take:
    • Your mobile phone. Make sure it’s fully charged (carry a spare phone battery or a standalone charging device) Consider purchasing an app for your smartphone, one which allows you to use it as a personal alarm, which will also alert a monitoring station if you get into trouble and give them your location. Such apps will usually automatically instruct your phone to record audio and visual information (See our DIRECTORY)
    • Your keys. Carry them in a deep pocket if you can, in case you lose your bag
    • Condoms
    • Personal safety alarm with torch (only really useful as an alarm if held in the hand or otherwise immediately accessible, but your hand can still be in your pocket) (See our DIRECTORY)
  • Make sure someone knows where you're going and who you're going with
  • Although blind dates might seem appealing, only meet the person in the company of your friends. Meet in public places, stay in public places and don't drink too much so you can stay in control

Getting there and back

  • If you can, travel with friends
  • Think about covering up expensive jewellery or not wearing it until you reach your destination

Walking

  • Use well lit streets, walk in the middle of the footway, and walk on the outer curve of a bend for early views around the corner.
  • Walk towards oncoming traffic for safety and so that a car driver can’t easily pull up behind you
  • Walk with a sense of purpose and look up 
  • Don’t take short cuts down alleyways, quiet back streets or across waste ground
  • Don’t listen to music on earphones and try not to use your phone as these things will distract your attention from what’s going on around you.
  • If you have to use your phone stand with your back against a wall or shop window or doorway so you can see all around you while you’re talking or messaging
  • If you can see potential trouble ahead cross over the street where it is safe to do so
  • If you think you’re being followed cross the street where it is safe to do so and if you still think you’re being followed walk to a busy area, enter a restaurant or even knock on someone’s door.  If you’re really worried call 999.

Using Public Transport

  • If using public transport make sure you know the times of the last train or bus
  • Sit downstairs on the bus if you can
  • On a train try to sit in a busy carriage

Taxis

  • Book your cab journeys in advance with your usual licensed taxi firm. This might be especially prudent for busy nights, such as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve when demand is manic; and make sure you’ve got their numbers on your phone in case they don’t turn up or your arrangements change
  • Sit in the back of a taxi
  • Don’t forget that most large towns and cities have two types of taxis; Licensed Hackney carriage vehicles that can pick passengers up from taxi ranks and can be flagged down (think of the London black cabs) and Licensed Private Hire vehicles  that have to be pre-booked and cannot be flagged down in the street
  • If you’re using a licensed private hire taxi make sure that you get into the one that you ordered. So make sure you have sufficient information from your taxi firm about the vehicle that’s coming to pick you up.  The best taxi firms will message your phone or call you with the details of the vehicle and the name of the driver automatically
  • The genuine private hire taxi firm with which you’ve booked will know who you are and will know where you’re going – ask the driver for this information and don’t get in the car if they don’t have this basic information. Don’t assume that the driver who says to you “you called a taxi?” is from the firm you called (he may not even be a taxi driver at all!)
  • If you get into a taxi alone, message your mates and let them know you're OK and also tell them when you get home so they know you're safe. You could record the plate number or registration number of the vehicle - or use a camera phone take a picture of the vehicle before you get in. Then text the details or send the photo to a friend or family member. A genuine taxi driver won’t mind this a bit
  • If you’re not going to make it home because you’ve changed your plans phone a person who maybe expecting you so they know where you are and don’t worry

Driving

  • If your vehicle does not have an alarm then have one fitted.  Always insist on a Thatcham approved alarm system
  • Lock the doors and boot before you drive away to reduce the chances of snatch theft and robbery when stopped or in slow moving traffic
  • Although you will be breaking the law if you are using a mobile phone in your hand whilst driving a motor vehicle, you and your passengers who might be using them should be particularly aware of snatch theft and robbery when in crawling traffic or stopped at traffic lights
  • Take extra care if you are driving a convertible vehicle with the roof down.  Consider raising the windows when stationary or in slow traffic and keep the doors and boot locked
  • When parking away from home try to park in a place that is well lit and overlooked.  When using a public car park try to use one that is supervised and preferably a Park Mark® Safer Parking Facility.  These have been vetted by the police and have measures in place to create a safer environment for you and your vehicle.  Plan ahead and follow this link to search for a Park Mark® Safer Parking Facility
  • Always close the windows and sunroof and lock the doors and set the immobiliser and alarm before leaving the vehicle, even for a minute, such as when paying for petrol at a service station
  • Don't offer people you've just met a lift home
  • When returning to the vehicle approach it very carefully if there is an indication that the alarm has been activated. If really worried contact the car park attendant, using the Help Point if one is available
  • If your vehicle can be unlocked remotely unlock it just before you approach the car as the internal lights should illuminate upon unlocking.  If necessary use your handbag or hand alarm torch to shine into the car to check the front and back seats before you get in
  • Lock the doors as soon as you get in, start the engine and drive away without delay
  • When parking at home use the garage if you have one or park on a well lit driveway or hard standing, rather than in the street.  If you live in a block of flats you will have to make use of the parking facilities provided and if these are not secure enough you and your neighbours will need to approach the landlord or managing agent to ask for improvements.

When you’re there

  • Think very carefully about leaving the venue with someone you’ve just met, especially if your mind is clouded with drink.  Perhaps arrange to meet again on another occasion in a public place to get to know the person better
  • Look after your friends and don’t let them go off with someone they don’t know when they’re drunk
  • If you do decide to go somewhere on your own make sure your friends know where you’ve gone and message them when you get to your destination – and make this a standard arrangement with your friends
  • Don’t leave your handbag on the back of a chair in a pub, club or busy restaurant
  • Stay safe by avoiding confrontation and walk away from trouble, but try not to get separated from your friends

Drink safely

  • Pace your drinking and drink water or alternate with soft drinks
  • To prevent your drink from being spiked with drugs or strong alcohol don't leave it unattended, even for a few seconds. Take it with you to the toilet and finish your drink if you’re going to use the dance floor or go outside*
  • Think very carefully before you accept a drink from someone you don’t know and refuse any drinks that have been bought for you by someone you don’t know which you have not seen poured or opened (especially the drink bought by the sort of guy who sits at the bar and has a drink delivered to your table)
  • If you feel uneasy about someone who wishes to buy you a drink, trust your instincts and politely refuse
  • Don’t share or swap drinks, even with your friends, as you may not know what’s in it
  • Drink from the bottle if you can and consider using a ‘Spikey’ and straw, which makes it exceedingly difficult to spike your drink**
  • If you feel unwell after only consuming one or two drinks tell your friends and make arrangements to safely return home.  Ask your friends to inform the management of the venue in case somebody is spiking drinks at the venue
  • If a friend’s had too much to drink make sure they get home safely

* Spikies are brightly coloured ‘use once only’ plastic stoppers that glow under UV light so everyone can see that your drink has been protected. Once inserted into a bottle they are very difficult to remove. A hole in the stopper is just big enough to insert a straw and once inserted are difficult to tamper with. Many Student Union bars and some nightclubs provide them for free.

Visit Spikey.co.uk for further information:

** Drinks can be spiked with controlled drugs such as Rohypnol that can cause paralysis and memory loss and GHB, which can cause dizziness, confusion and also memory loss.  Drinks can also be spiked with other alcoholic drinks such as vodka.  For further information about drink spiking visit the very comprehensive website of the Roofie Foundation