Be consent aware
In October 2021, Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall successfully bid for £191,583.96 from the Government’s Safer Streets Fund to make public places safer for everyone and through projects to help women and girls feel safer on our streets. Part of this funding developed and launched a county-wide campaign to tackle the myths and misunderstandings around rape, consent, sexual harassment and what constitutes as inappropriate behaviour.
This webpage is dedicated to:
- Promoting a healthy and positive understanding of consent.
- Encouraging the reporting of unwanted behaviours to the police or other support agencies.
- Promoting support services available.
What is consent?
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 says that someone consents to sexual activity if they:
- Agree by choice and
- Have both the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
Both parties involved must say ‘yes’ to provide consent. If someone doesn’t say ‘no’ out loud that doesn’t mean that they are consenting.
The legal age of consent is 16 in the UK.
Myths and fact
Myth: If someone doesn’t fight back or they weren’t hurt, then it isn’t rape/sexual assault. Fact: If a person is threatened, there are five human responses that are predicted: Fight; Flight; Freeze; Friend; and Flop (5). The emotional brain (the amygdala) will automatically trigger the response needed for survival. This means that a person who is being raped may freeze becoming unconsciously immobile, attempt to socially engage a perpetrator or flop in a way that they submit to the perpetrator in order to stay alive.
Myth: If they weren’t intoxicated/wearing a certain type of clothing/walked alone/flirted, then they wouldn’t have been raped or sexually assaulted.
Fact: The only person responsible for rape and sexual assault is the perpetrator. The victim is never to blame.
Myth: Consent isn’t needed in a relationship.
Fact: Consent is always needed, no matter what the relationship status is. The law protects those who are sexually assaulted/raped while in a relationship. In 2019/2020, 16% of all rape cases were flagged as ‘domestic abuse’ rape cases. – Key facts about how the CPS prosecutes allegations of rape | The Crown Prosecution Service
Myth: A person cannot be guilty of rape if they believed the victim had given consent.
Fact: A person can be guilty of rape even if they believed that the victim had consented. The belief in the person’s consent must be ‘reasonable’. The court will assess the ‘reasonableness’ of the steps taken by the person to establish whether a complainant consented and not just assumed consent because the victim didn’t say ‘no’. –
Myth: Some people say no, even when they mean yes. They’re just playing hard to get.
Fact: If someone says no to sex, it must be taken seriously. Consent must be a clear ‘Yes’ for every circumstance. Just because they said ‘yes’ once, doesn’t mean ‘yes’ to every sexual encounter with the same person
Myth: If someone gives consent to one aspect of sex, consent isn’t needed to perform other sexual acts.
Fact: A person must gain consent for any and all forms of sex. Sexual comfort is different for everyone and although they may be comfortable with one type of sex, they may not be comfortable with another. This also includes conditional consent. Some people may only consent to sex if a condom is used, if the condom is taken off during sex without a partner knowing, this is no longer consensual and is considered rape.
Myth: Buying someone a drink or dinner means that the purchaser is entitled to sex or sexual acts.
Fact: Consent cannot be bought and is not exchangeable. Agreeing to drinks, dinner, events, dates etc. does not entitle anyone to sex. Both parties must consent to any form or intimacy.
- In an emergency call the Police 999.
- Report a crime to 101 or via the online form – Report a Non-Emergency Crime/Incident Online – Cumbria Constabulary
- If you cannot speak and are in danger:
Step 1. Call 999
Step 2. Listen to the questions
Step 3. Respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can’t speak.
Step 4. If prompted , press 55. You’ll then be put through to the police.
If you have been raped/sexually assaulted and do not want to report to the Police, there are services in Cumbria that can help.
Victim Support can support anyone who has dealt with any crimes, including rape and sexual assault. The service can provide tailored help to the individual, including assigning an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) to provide practical and emotional support and information. They are open Monday – Friday, 9am-6pm and can be reached on 0300 303 0157. The national 24/7 helpline is 0808 1689 111. Victim Support also has a 24/7 online chat on their website. To find out more, visit Cumbria – Victim Support
The Bridgeway Sexual Assault Support Services offers a vital lifeline to those who have been victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse in the county. The service provides ‘coordinated, forensic, counselling and aftercare services to men, women and living in Cumbria who have experienced rape or sexual assault’. The Bridgeway is open 24/7 and can be contacted on 0808 118 6432. Find out more about The Bridgeway at The Bridgeway – Supporting the victims of Rape or Serious Sexual Assault
Safety Net supports anyone who has experienced rape, exploitation, sexual and domestic abuse in the North and West of the county. They can be contacted Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm on 01228 515859. To find out more about the services offered by Safety Net, visit Safety Net UK
The Birchall Trust offer counselling sessions to males and females of all ages who have experienced sexual abuse/rape in the south of the county. Counsellors help survivors to make sense of their story, answer difficult questions about what has happened to them, help people to come to terms with their situation and heal. The Birchall Trust can be reached on 01229 820828, Monday –Friday, 9am-5pm. To find out more about The Birchall Trust, visit Home – The Birchall Trust
What is sexual consent? | Rape Crisis England & Wales | Rape Crisis England & Wales
Rape and Sexual Offences – Chapter 6: Consent | The Crown Prosecution Service (cps.gov.uk)
Report a Non-Emergency Crime/Incident Online – Cumbria Constabulary