While it is important that any victims of sexual assault and abuse report the crime and seek support, it is believed that offences against males are particularly under-reported.
This new campaign aims to highlight that male victims are not alone, that there should be no stigma or fear in talking about what has happened to them and that by doing so they can access a wide range of support.
As part of the campaign launch, a video has been produced featuring a man harmed by sexual abuse in West Yorkshire.
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He was sexually abused between the ages of 11 and 16 by a family friend who was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In the video, he talks about how he doesn’t believe he would be here today if he didn’t report the abuse as it was eating away at him. He says how he was held back from reporting earlier from a fear that he wouldn’t be believed and being told that a man couldn’t possibly abuse another male but was shocked and humbled by the support he was offered.
Offences against male victims account for around 15 per cent of the sexual offences reported to West Yorkshire Police.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson said: “The important thing that any victim of sexual assault should know is that it is not their fault. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a relationship with the perpetrator, whether they are someone you know, whether they are a stranger; if you haven’t consented to a sexual act then it is an offence.
“Being a victim of a sexual offence can have long term effects on your physical and mental health as well as your ability to form and maintain relationships. Please don’t suffer alone. There is help available, including organisations who specifically work with male victims.
“If you have been a victim of sexual assault, either recently or in the past, then we would encourage you to report it to us so that we can investigate it and look to take action against the person responsible. I would stress though that you can still access support without having to speak to the police.”
Alisha Thomas, from Victim Support, said: “We are pleased to be part of the West Yorkshire male victim/survivors campaign highlighting the needs of male victims that are experiencing or have experienced sexual violence.
“Victim Support’s ISVA service is an accredited male service that supports men and boys alongside women and girls. We understand the fundamental differences and have incorporated that into our way of working.
“This campaign will hopefully highlight that it is ok to talk and seek help when it’s the right time for you.
“Reporting to the police is a huge step and we recognise that it is not always what survivors want to do. Victim Support will support you whether or not you choose to report to the police and make sure you are given as much information as you need.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “This campaign was informed by a host of partner agencies and really importantly, victims themselves. Our aim is to increase the confidence of male victims of sexual abuse, and all victims, to come forward. You will be heard, you will be listened to and you will be supported.
“I pledged to put victims first and have further developed and commissioned Victim Support to provide core support to people harmed by crime (including those aged 18 and under) in West Yorkshire. I also recently launched a Victims Strategy and I am working with partners to create a purpose built Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for the whole of the county.
“The centre is due to open in the Spring and will house court live-link facilities, vulnerable victims suites for video recorded interviews (VVS/VRI), a hub/base for specialist support services as required, and access or referral to Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) taking these services to a new level.
“We will continue to work together to target offenders, give victims the confidence to come forward and make all forms of sexual abuse and violence unacceptable.”
Information and advice is available on the West Yorkshire Police website at: www.westyorkshire.police.uk/MaleSexualAbuse