Normal life takes menacing turn in sexual-consent campaign

Everyday scenarios, such as being offered a free food sample in the supermarket, get sinister in a series of films made by Norfolk and Suffolk police to highlight the issue of sexual consent.

Normal life takes menacing turn in sexual-consent campaign

Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies have joined forces for the "#ThisIsNotConsent" campaign.

It comprises short films being shown on Instagram Stories and other social media platforms over the coming weeks. The campaign uses routine occasions, such as getting changed after a football game, ro show how force and threats turn them into abusive – and illegal – situations. 

The first of five films was released last Tuesday during Sexual Abuse and Violence Awareness Week. It portrays a drunk couple happily returning from a night out with a takeaway pizza. The woman passes out on the sofa and her boyfriend tries to force-feed her pizza in an unsettling scene of escalating anger and aggression – a recurring feature of the spots. A new film will be released each week. 

— Norfolk Police (@NorfolkPolice) February 5, 2019

This week’s film, released today, shows a woman trying to force her boyfriend to drink a glass of orange juice.

Hard-hitting

The campaign aims to use the analogies to highlight the importance of consent and ultimately reduce the incidence of sexual assaults.

The films to be released over the coming weeks will show variations on the theme of people being forced to do something against their will, such as a man being made to wear a jumper and a woman force-fed a piece of chocolate brownie in a supermarket.

The campaign is primarily aimed at 13- to 25-year-olds in Norfolk and Suffolk, and is being promoted across traditional and social media, as well as via presentations in schools.

It was developed in consultation with victims of sexual assault, staff working in sexual assault referral centres and the Rape Crisis charity.

Research involving target-audience focus groups of the campaign found that half of those who didn’t previously understand consent understood it better after watching the films.

Messaging in the films is unambiguous. It warns that if you don’t seek consent, you could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, placed on the sex offenders' register for life, sacked from your job and disowned by family and friends.

Growing problem

The campaign was launched in the context of a steep rise in sexual offences, with reported cases in England and Wales up by 23.7% in 2017-2018, according to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics.

In Norfolk, there was a rise of 25.9%, while in Suffolk offences of this kind rose by 26.6% during the same period.

Supporting the films are interviews with a victim of sexual assault and a sexual violence advisor, as well as short "myth-busting" videos.

Police view

Temporary detective superintendent Andy Coller, head of safeguarding at Norfolk Constabulary, said: "There is often confusion about what is meant by consent and so we hope, by showing a range of everyday situations where people clearly have not consented to what has happened to them, these thought-provoking films will encourage discussion and lead to a wider understanding about what consent means in a sexual context.

"We understand that people might find these videos quite shocking, but it's important we raise awareness of consent, what it means and the consequences for offenders who do not seek consent."

A version of this story first appeared on PRWeek

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