Bedfordshire Police is committed to being a light in the dark for women across the county as it launches a new survey encouraging women to have their say.
The launch coincides with this week’s (Monday 7th – Friday 11th February), It’s Not Okay week, raising awareness around rape and sexual abuse, highlighting the support available and the work police are doing to target offenders.
Project Firefly will also be part of Bedfordshire Police’s plans to tackle male violence against women and girls (MVAWG) and the acts of violence and abuse that disproportionately affect women, such as rape and other sexual offences. Project Firefly will aim to increase public safety and confidence, focus on prevention and pursue those responsible for perpetrating abuse, through educating licensed premises, taxi companies and takeaways, as well as running dedicated patrols.
Working in partnership with Bedford Borough Council and Crimestoppers on the Home Office-funded Safer Streets initiative, officers joined staff at the Harpur Centre on Saturday (5 February) for a roadshow to raise awareness of MVAWG.
Sunday (6th February 2022), was also international day of zero tolerance of female genital mutilation, and officers from the Protecting Vulnerable People and Airport policing teams at Bedfordshire Police joined UK Border Force at London Luton Airport to raise awareness of this harmful practice.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dee Perkins, Bedfordshire Police’s lead for male violence against women and girls, said: “We will continue to raise awareness about sexual abuse and violence, and encourage victims to report to us, but we cannot emphasise strongly enough that our message to offenders is that no means no.
“With a significant focus on targeting perpetrators, we will be looking to hold people engaging in this abhorrent behaviour accountable.
“We are working hard to better understand street harassment and misogyny so that we can best target existing and future police powers.
“We are working with our partners to ensure Bedfordshire is safe, but it is important you have your say too and let us know how you really feel about your safety by completing our survey.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “I wholeheartedly support Project Firefly; I have very strong views about male violence against women and girls, and I am committed to doing whatever I can to support victims of this awful crime.
“I am pleased to say, however that the recent approved precept for 2022/23 will mean Bedfordshire Police will secure extra resources in our victim engagement team, who play a crucial role in supporting victims of rape and other serious sexual offences.
“I will continue to bang the drum about prevention and work closely with the force to educate preparators about the serious consequences of their actions.
“We all have a part to play in helping to ensure gender-based violence is stamped out in society and I encourage you to talk with children and family members about healthy relationships, boundaries and what is not acceptable to say or do to others.
“I am grateful to Chief Constable Garry Forsyth, his team and especially Bedfordshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) the Emerald Centre, for their hard work in this hugely complex area of policing.”
Cllr Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety at Bedford Borough Council added: “The Safer Streets project is a great opportunity to bring conversations about violence against women and girls to the forefront, and for us all to take steps to protect women and girls from acts of violence. Bedfordshire Police, Community Safety and our partners will be holding a series of engagement events in Bedford, raising awareness and encouraging people to report unacceptable behaviours, which can include cat-calling, groping, and unwanted explicit messages. We want to educate men and boys, to challenge their behaviours and tackle sexual harassment of women and girls.”
A spokesperson from CrimeStoppers said: “For far too long we have tolerated sexual abuse and harassment in our public spaces. Thankfully the tide is turning, and people are no longer willing to accept the unacceptable.
“Our charity feels strongly about supporting this campaign and we urge anyone who has information about those responsible for sexual harassment to contact the police, or to stay completely anonymous, contact Crimestoppers.”
If you can share your experiences and views with us, you will be helping to inform our police approach to tackling male violence against women and girls. Complete the survey.
Bedfordshire Police remain committed to tackling all forms of abuse, supporting victims of any gender and tackling both male and female offenders.
Find out more about Project Firefly.
You can contact Victim Care Services for free and confidential support, whether the crime has been reported or not. The experienced staff and volunteers know what emotions and challenges victims may be going through. They are specially trained to listen and give help and advice. They also work with a range of specialist organisations and community support groups and can make referrals to help victims on their journey.
Victim care co-ordinators will also discuss the benefits of restorative justice, which gives victims the opportunity to tell the offender about the real impact the crime they committed has had on them.
You can also contact Bedfordshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) the Emerald Centre, by emailing email@example.com or calling 01234 897052. They offer free support and practical help to anyone in Bedfordshire and Luton who has experienced sexual violence and/or sexual abuse.