Menacing take on normal life for sexual consent campaign

Everyday scenarios, such as being offered a free food sample in the supermarket, take a sinister turn in a series of disturbing films made by police forces to highlight the issue of sexual consent.

A still from one of the films in the #ThisIsNotConsent campaign
A still from one of the films in the #ThisIsNotConsent campaign

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

It is centred on several 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, and shows how force and threats turn them into abusive – and illegal – situations.

Abusive

A new film will be released each week, serving as a powerful analogy for the issue of consent in a sexual relationship.

The first of the 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 films.

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 and serious 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, a woman forced to use lipstick, and a woman force-fed a piece of chocolate brownie after glancing at a man giving away free samples in a supermarket.

The campaign is primarily aimed at teenagers and young adults (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, which showed the films to target-audience focus groups prior to their release, found that half of those who didn’t previously understand consent understood it better after watching the films.

Messaging in all 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 Offender’s Register for life, sacked from your job, disowned by family and friends, and troubled in new relationships.

Growing problem

The campaign has been launched in the context of a steep rise in sexual offences, with reported cases in England and Wales up by 23.7 per cent in 2017-18, according to the latest figures published by the Office of National Statistics.

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

In addition to the films depicting people being forced to do things against their will, the forces are using a filmed interview with a victim of sexual assault, as well as a sexual violence advisor, and short 'myth-busting' videos to reinforce the campaign.

#ThisIsNotConsent - Interview with a victim of sexual assault from Norfolk Police on Vimeo.

#ThisIsNotConsent - Independent sexual violence advisor interview from Norfolk Police on Vimeo.

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."

He added: "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."


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