Pinning hopes on sex attack posters

Amy Masson with a poster against rape at Sheffield University
Amy Masson with a poster against rape at Sheffield University
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DOZENS of Sheffield students are being sexually attacked or raped every year, new police figures show.

Specialist rape investigators said that between April 2010 and March 2012 there were 104 sex attacks on young women in South Yorkshire.

South Yorkshire Police is now launching a new campaign to tackle the issue – but in a new move officers are targeting potential rapists, rather than victims.

The campaign, called ‘This is not an invitation to rape me’, features images of a young woman wearing skimpy clothing, drunk, in a clinch with a man in the back of a taxi and kissing a man.

The strapline runs across the posters and business cards which will be distributed at both universities.

Sergeant Lynsey Ellis, from the force’s specialist sex crime unit, said: “It’s all about tackling stereotypes and people’s perceptions and opinions.

“A high percentage of people think if you’ve been kissing someone, or they are drunk or wearing skimpy clothing, then it’s okay to sexually attack them.

“We found there was a high number of rapes or sexual offences being committed against university students.

“More than 100 offences have been committed in the last two years – that’s a massive number of students this is happening to.”

Sgt Ellis said incidents increased in January and June, when the academic semesters end and students are traditionally out celebrating, with attackers both fellow students and members of the public.

She said: “Some perpetrators are people known to the victims or someone they’ve met that night.

“Sheffield University is near to the red light area, it’s not very well lit and some of the student accommodation is in more seedy areas of town.

“But Sheffield is a very safe place to live and statistically we have much lower sexual offence incidence rates than other comparable areas and much lower than other large cities in the north such as Leeds or Manchester.”

Nationally, only 6 per cent of sex attackers are caught, while the number of sex attacks reported is estimated to be just a third of the true figure.

Amy Masson is Sheffield University Students’ Union’s women’s officer and is working with the police on the campaign.

She said: “One in seven female students experiences serious physical or sexual violence at university and about one in four women experiences sexual violence in her lifetime.

“The solution is not for women to drink less or to get a taxi. The solution is for rapists to not rape.

“Women are raped wearing burkas, pyjamas and work clothes. Telling women to change their dress, alcohol consumption and use of public space fundamentally misses the point.

“Women have the right to wear what they want, drink and use public space – just as men do.

“For those who have been attacked it is not remotely helpful to tell them they should have behaved differently.”

“The rapist is to blame.

“We need to stop pulling the wool over our eyes and pretending that this isn’t happening. We need to stop blaming women.

“We need to educate boys and men and we need those that do rape and abuse to change their behaviour.”

Keeley Furniss, is chairman of the Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service, a charity which has been offering counselling to victims of sex attacks for 31 years.

She said: “I think this is a fantastic campaign and it can’t come too soon.

“We need to get the message out that just because a woman is drunk or wearing a short shirt, she doesn’t deserve to be raped.”

The service offers a telephone a helpline and one-to-one counselling and women can self-refer themselves to it.

It will also be offering support by email in February and is hoping to set up a support group for victims.

Have you been raped or attacked?

* Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service - 0114 244 7936;

* University of Sheffield Counselling Service - 0114 222 4134;

* Sheffield Hallam University Student Wellbeing - 0114 225 5555;

* South Yorkshire Police - 101.

Sheffield student attacks

Rachid Abdal-Moujoud was jailed for six years after he was caught on CCTV targeting a drunk student in Sheffield.

He took her home, raped her and burgled her house.

Musie Asgodom was jailed for seven years. The taxi driver attacked two students, raped one and sexually assaulted the other.

Michael Chiswick was locked up indefinitely for the protection of the public. He attacked student on Alma Street and assaulted her. He has been linked to other attacks on students in the same area.