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'This is ABUSE' campaign

Teenagers in Merseyside are being asked to think about what is a sex crime as part of a high-profile national campaign to raise rape awareness among young people.

Research shows that a third of teenage girls and 16 per cent of teenage boys have experienced some form of sexual violence at the hands of a partner and that 66 per cent of all sexual abuse is commited by under-18s.

But a large number of young people don't know that rape can be commited by someone they know and doesn't have to be an attack from a stranger or an adult.

The national 'Would You See Rape?' campaign by the Home Office is being backed by children's charity the NSPCC , rape victim charities such as Rape Crisis and Survivors Trust, as well as police forces up and down the country.

Detective Inspector Debbie Weir from Merseyside Police's dedicated rape investigation team, Unity, said a large number of sexual assaults involving young people were happening at house parties or when teenagers were drinking in parks or other public places.

"If you are excessively drunk at a party then you cannot possibly give consent to have sex. Without consent, it is a criminal offence for someone to take advantage of you in that way. Sadly, we are finding that a lot of young people don't know this and think that nothing can be done, even when they wake up the next morning feeling like something awful has happened.

"Our message to them is that a great deal can actually be done to help them and we will always take seriously any allegation of sexual assault they make."

The national campaign will feature TV, cinema and online advertisements showing a teenage girl being coerced into sex by a boy upstairs at a house party. The girl says 'I don't want to' but the boy persists. A double of the boy then appears in the background and the viewer is asked: 'If you could see yourself now, would you see rape'?. The adverts will run until next month and will seek to raise rape awareness, dispell myths and challenge perceptions surrounding rape. For example, the TRUTH is:

  • it is NOT okay for a boy to expect to have sex with a girl if he has spent alot of money on her (22 per cent of 16-20 year olds surveyed thought this was ok)
  • it is NOT okay for a boy to expect to have sex with a girl if he thinks she has had sex with other people before (21 per cent of 16-20 year olds surveyed either thought this was ok or weren't sure)

In Merseyside, in the last 12 months, there have been 107 rapes or serious sexual assaults reported to the police where the victims were aged 13 to 18 years old. And 29 people in that age range have been charged with serious sexual offences.

Since the formation of the Unity Team in 2010, in which Merseyside Police became the first force in the country to incorporate specialist crown prosecutors into a rape investigation team, the number of reports have increased as people feel more confident that their allegations will be taken seriously by the police.

DI Weir added: "A key part of this national campaign, which we are supporting locally, is to not only raise awareness of what constitutes a rape but also tell people who they can report it to. For most people this will be the worst thing that has ever happened to them and at first they will not know where to turn. We want people to be reassured that they can come to us and they will be listened to and cared for. We want young people in our high schools, colleges and universities to feel confident about challenging sexual violence when they see it and, if it does happen to them, know who they can turn to for help."

To report a rape or sexual offence to Merseyside Police call 101. Alternatively you can pass information on anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Confidential 24/7 help for victims of sexual assault is available at Safe Place Merseyside on 0151 295 3550.

Find out more about the 'This is ABUSE' campaign at their website.

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