A powerful campaign emphasising violence against women and girls will not be tolerated has been launched at Reaseheath College and University Centre Reaseheath and across the sites of our academic partner, the University of Chester.

The arresting visual campaign is accompanied by the introduction of a network of Sexual Violence Liaison Officers to support students at the educational institutions, plus measures to make students feel safer on and off campus.

The campaign has been funded as part of the UK Government’s national Safer Streets initiative and received £550,000 following a successful bid from John Dwyer, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire.

Police statistics nationally recorded that a significant number of 18 to 23-year-olds identified as victims of sexual violence. Although some incidents were reported, there was also significant under-reporting. With a large proportion of students in this age range, the University of Chester, Reaseheath College and University Centre Reaseheath were identified as the focus for the bid.

Multiple agencies have supported the campaign including RASASC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre) Cheshire and Merseyside, Cheshire Constabulary, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire and Chester Students’ Union.

Plans to help students feel safer include enhanced lighting and CCTV cameras, the development of a student safety app, the introducing of safe spaces for students who feel threatened and the introduction of a safe taxi scheme which allows students to use their student ID card to get home if they feel unsafe.

A series of workshops will be delivered to promote acceptable behaviour and encourage healthy relationships alongside training for staff on how to support victims and manage disclosures. Dedicated and specially trained Sexual Violence Liaison Officers will provide a single point of contact for those who have experienced sexual violence.

A supporting ‘Respect’ campaign alerting people to sexual violence and controlling behaviours will provide thought-provoking posters, billboards and digital signage around Reaseheath College, University Centre Reaseheath and University of Chester campuses and surrounding areas.

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “This work continues to build on the collaborative commitment between partner agencies in and around the University of Chester. It complements work being done in other areas of the county to help women and girls feel safe.

“Tackling violence against women and girls is a priority in my Police and Crime Plan, and the Constabulary has been working hard across the county to ensure we crack down on this kind of crime so that people feel safe on the streets.

“Education is key in this area, and arming students with the knowledge of what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable moves us one step closer to tackling the issue.

“I want to reassure women and girls in Cheshire that their safety is taken extremely seriously by the police and its partners. Violence against them is not their fault. Total responsibility lies with the people who commit these crimes and this project will be key in helping to change attitudes and behaviours.”

Detective Inspector Danielle Knox, Project Lead Safer Streets 3, said: “I am really proud of the progress which we have achieved. Working closely with the University of Chester, Reaseheath College, University Centre Reaseheath and partners, we have ensured that we have a multi-faceted approach to making students both feel safer and actually be safer. Significant work has gone into not only addressing physical safety aspects of campuses but also into educating students about acceptable behaviours. I believe this will be the lasting legacy of this project.

“We have put in place a country-leading Sexual Violence Liaison Officer model which will be seen as best practice for other higher education institutions. I am grateful for the support of community organisations in taking part in our Safer Taxi scheme and Safe Spaces which will really benefit the student and staff communities who use the campuses.”

Peter Greenall, Reaseheath’s Assistant Principal and Dean of Higher Education said: “The Safer Streets project has brought together a range of experts who have designed and deployed effective measures which will further enhance safety and security for all users of our campus.

“The investment in preventative approaches to tackle the increasing and ever complex challenges our young people face has been most welcome. Our staff have benefited from specialist training which will ensure that they are able to offer the best support for future victims of harassment and sexual violence. The striking Respect campaign will bring these sensitive issues to the forefront and enable us to work with the student community to challenge perceptions and unwanted behaviours.”

Dr Helen Galbraith, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience at the University of Chester, said: “I am very proud that the University of Chester is actively furthering our commitment to student safety through the Safer Streets project. The combination of improved education and awareness; the roll out of the Safer Taxi scheme and Safe Spaces, and the introduction of Sexual Violence Liaison Officers across our sites will put us at the forefront of safeguarding our community

“We want everyone who works, visits and studies at the University of Chester to know that we take their safety extremely seriously and that we are here to offer support and guidance to anyone should they need it.

“To receive this funding and deliver this project is an incredible achievement by all involved and I want to thank everyone for their hard work and commitment.”

For more information visit http://reflectandrespect.com