North West Sexual Violence Awareness Week is set to return from 3 – 10 November 2023. Led by North West Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), police services, and sexual assault and abuse services, this vital initiative aims to raise awareness of sexual violence and the support services available to survivors.
In addition to raising awareness of vital services and support available, this year will see the awareness week introduce new social media features with a powerful goal – shatter the myths that underpin victim blaming.
The initiative will aim to educate about the different ways survivors can respond to trauma and why reporting or seeking help may not happen immediately. In addition, it strives to debunk myths about sexual violence while championing facts, supporting the criminal justice system’s campaign to combat persistent issues and stereotypes.
Julie Evans, Director of Operations at the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) Cheshire and Merseyside highlights the urgency of this campaign, stating:
“When people are subjected to a crime, many will instinctively ask for help, report it to the police, and tell others about what happened, but this simply isn’t the case when someone has been raped or experienced sexual abuse.
“Myths surrounding sexual violence exert a profound influence on our society, with far-reaching and devastating consequences. These misconceptions foster self-blame, cultivate feelings of shame, and instil a crippling fear of not being believed. These beliefs create an undercurrent of victim blaming and formidable barriers that prevent or delay survivors from reporting or seeking the vital support they need.
“During North West Sexual Violence Week, we will be supporting the campaign by sharing these important messages across our social media accounts and with our stakeholder and survivor network.
“By helping to dispel myths around sexual violence during this campaign, we also hope that people will challenge themselves and others when it comes to understanding and supporting survivors of sexual violence. It is crucial to create an environment of empathy, free from judgment so that survivors can heal and regain control of their lives.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, said:
“The importance of myth busting around sexual violence is paramount to help empower survivors to come forward. It also helps to educate society as a whole, ensuring that support is given to those who need it.
“Sexual violence is an under-reported crime, and I am pleased to see organisations come together to not only educate society but show survivors that the support is there for them.
“As Police and Crime Commissioner, it is my responsibility to provide funding for victim services. My partnership with the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) and Cheshire CARES who provide support for victims of crime is essential to ensuring that victims and survivors are helped through their recovery process.
“I’ve also provided more community-based support for survivors by implementing Independent Sexual Violence Advocates who administer specialist tailored support to survivors irrespective of whether they have reported their experience to the police. This support was a key part of my Police and Crime Plan.”
Saint Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) provides immediate crisis support and a forensic service to those affected by sexual abuse across Cheshire. Their Joint Clinical Director, Dr Michelle Carroll said:
“Myths often involve victim-blaming and misconceptions, placing responsibility on survivors rather than perpetrators. Challenging these views is vital to create an environment where survivors are supported without judgement.
“Awareness is crucial in dispelling these myths and fostering a more informed and empathetic society. Saint Mary’s SARC and SAFEPlace Merseyside (SARC serving Merseyside, Sefton, and Wirral) are proud to promote “North West Sexual Violence Awareness Week” through our social media channels. Here we will aim to raise awareness within the community and engage in discussions about sexual violence, consent and support.
“Increased awareness has the power to transform attitudes and understanding about sexual violence, making it easier for survivors to come forward, heal, and seek justice. Our goal is to educate individuals about consent, boundaries, and the various forms of sexual violence, fostering a culture of respect, empathy, and support”.
All organisations across North West England are invited to join this important initiative. Currently, local authorities, sexual violence support services, local police forces, charities, and universities are taking part.
You can contribute to the campaign by downloading campaign resources to help spread awareness far and wide. If you’re hosting events during North West Sexual Violence Awareness Week or have ideas on supporting the campaign, please click here for more information.
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This website was developed in collaboration with North West Police Crime Commissioners, NHS England, and Sexual Assault & Abuse Services.
The North West SAAS Partner Network (Strategic Direction for Sexual Assault and Abuse Services) is led by NHS England and covers Cheshire, Merseyside, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Lancashire.