Bournemouth Borough Council is working in partnership with Bournemouth University, Dorset Rape Crisis and The Shores to support Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2019. The campaign, which runs from 4-10 February, aims to raise awareness about how sexual abuse and sexual violence is not OK. It aims to empower victims and send out a clear message that the UK collectively will be saying #itsnotok. An awareness event will be held in Bournemouth Town Square between 10:30am and 4.00pm on Thursday 7 February supported by Dorset Rape Crisis and The Shores centre.
The campaign is linked to the Red Flag Campaign which originates from America where sexual violence has a high prevalence within the university population. It encourages friends and other campus community members to say something when they see warning signs (“red flags”) for sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking in a friend’s relationship. This campaign was brought to Bournemouth by a BU student and staff last year.
Peter Hills, Head of Psychology, Bournemouth University said: “The red flag campaign that we ran at Bournemouth University last year successfully raised awareness about the issues of sexual violence. It is a visible sign to those who have survived sexual violence that they are not alone: there is support and advice around for anyone with experience of it. One of the first steps is to raise awareness of the issues and break the taboo of talking about sexual violence. Then we can start to change people’s attitudes and behaviours and ensure that everyone knows that it’s not ok.”
This event falls on the seventh anniversary of the Shores opening its doors in Bournemouth. The Shores is the dedicated Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for Dorset, providing a comprehensive service to men, women and children who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
Kim Allen, Shores Manager said: “This event will highlight the services in Dorset available to those who are victims of sexual violence. The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) is here to advocate for all victims regardless of age, gender or sexuality, whether they self-refer for support or make a report to the police #nopolicenoproblem”
Councillor Jane Kelly, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Bournemouth Borough Council said: “This is a really important campaign and I urge anyone who has experienced sexual violence or has a friend in that situation to support this campaign. It really is not ok for people to suffer in silence and feel that they cannot speak out, either through fear or shame. I will be adding my red flag and message of support and look forward to seeing many others there during the week.”
Detective Inspector Kate Lill of Dorset Police said: “Dorset Police fully support this event to help raise awareness around sexual violence and that it’s not ok. We want people to feel confident to report to the police and feel safe in the knowledge that their report will be taken seriously and appropriate action will be taken. We encourage the public to come and chat to our officers who will be available to provide information and advice on the day.”
Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “Statistics showing that 80 per cent of sexual assaults were not reported to the police are deeply troubling, and show we sadly still have a very long way to go when it comes to talking openly about these offences.
“Nobody should ever feel like they have to tolerate any form of sexual assault or be afraid to come forward and report it. I would urge anyone who may be suffering in silence or who is concerned about a friend to come to this event and find out more about the support that is available.”
Simone Gosden, Dorset Rape Crisis said: ”Dorset Rape Crisis Support Centre is delighted to be supporting this event. It’s important that female and male survivors of sexual violence know that support services are available and that they will be believed. This is also a great opportunity for the local community to raise their voice in support of survivors, share their own experiences and promote healthy conversation about this often-taboo subject”
Bournemouth residents will have the opportunity to write messages of support for victims of sexual violence on a red flag. The flags will be placed around the square to show victims they are not alone. Come and help fill the Square with red flags! Anyone wanting to write a message of support can come down to the Safe Bus in the Town Square between 10 and 4 on Thursday 7 February.