Police campaign urges anyone who has suffered sexual abuse to seek support

Sexual violence can happen to anyone, of any age and in any walk of life.

At Cumbria Police, officers are trained to deal with these offences, investigate crimes and offer support to victims, which they do every day.

Over the coming weeks police are highlighting the work to tackle these offences and the support services available.

Officers are also urging anyone who has suffered such abuse to get in touch. Even if victims do not want police involvement, police can help put people in touch with the many services available to help them.

Detective Chief Inspector Vicki Coombes is the rape and serious sexual offences lead for Cumbria Constabulary.

She said: “Sexual offences are horrendous crimes that have a profound and lasting impact on victims – and there is no place for these crimes in society.

“As a police force, we thoroughly investigate any report we receive and ensure survivors of sexual abuse are safeguarded and afforded appropriate support.

“We are committed to pursuing any identified offenders to bring them to justice.

“We have specially trained officers who are experienced in investigating reports of sexual violence and abuse and we work closely with victims to ensure they are supported from the moment they contact us.

“We recognise these crimes can be extremely difficult to speak about, which is why we also provide additional options for those who want to report to the police – and we work closely with support agencies across Cumbria.”

What is changing to help victims of sexual offences and target offenders?

Work is always ongoing to improve police services for the public.

During the last two years significant changes have been made to the response to sexual offences, which aim to provide a better service to victims and lead to more offenders being prosecuted.

Work carried out over the last two years to improve our services to victims include a number of changes in procedure and structure.

These include:

A new specialist team

The force has formed a dedicated and specially-trained team that works exclusively with victims of rape

This team oversees support to victims to provide evidence and proceed through the criminal justice process, while the investigation into the actions of the perpetrator is progressed by trained detectives. The structure is backed up by enhanced training within other roles, such as those officers in response policing and CID.

A commitment over victim mobile phones

DCI Coombes added: “It was established nationally, through engagement with victims’ groups, that handing over a phone for any length of time during what is obviously a traumatic period can be difficult.

“We are already achieving the target of downloading victims’ phones within 24 hours.

“We also have dedicated digital forensic technicians who have mobile technology which enables them to travel to victims to download their device, by appointment, which negates the necessity to seize the device at all.

“This has significantly reduced digital intrusion and improved engagement with victims.

“However, we also remain committed to ensuring victims’ mobile phones are only examined when absolutely necessary.”

Operation Vigilant

In July 2021, the constabulary launched Operation Vigilant.

This is a perpetrator-focused, uniformed street patrol campaign to identify potential opportunistic offenders in the night-time economy.

Specialist training was given to officers on night shifts in urban areas.

The training provides officers with key identifying markers for potential perpetrators targeting vulnerable people coming out of venues such as pubs and clubs.

The training also looks at public engagement and supporting those in a vulnerable state.

Anyone whose behaviour correlates to any of the key markers will be stopped by uniformed officers and questions will be asked to establish the circumstances around their activity and behaviour.

It also focusses on having uniformed patrols within areas in the night time economy identified as hot spots where violence against women and girls may take place.

Improving timeliness on rape investigations

Officers have worked closely with the CPS over the last two years to improve the timeliness of investigations, with the aspiration to have successful cases charged within 12 months.

DCI Coombes said: “This will still seem like a long time, however previously it was not unusual for cases to take upwards of two years for a decision to be made.

“These improvements are largely down to the excellent working relationship we have with colleagues in the CPS and the introduction of RASSO (rape and serious sexual offence) surgeries, which provide consistency and internal governance across the constabulary.”

Increased victim engagement

DCI Coombes said: “In May 2023 we recruited a team of RASSO Engagement Officers.

“These officers are trained to provide an enhanced service to victims of rape, allowing the investigating detectives to focus on the behaviour of the perpetrator.

“The engagement officers support the victim though the evidence gathering stage, through to the criminal proceedings.

“We also work with Victim Support to ensure there is a seamless and consistent victim care service throughout.”

DCI Coombes added: “Rape and serious sexual offences are devastating crimes which can have a lasting impact – and the victim is at the centre of our decision-making.

“These crimes are committed primarily by men against women and girls but can also be perpetrated against men and boys – sexual offences can be committed by women.


“Rape is most commonly perpetrated by someone known to the victim but these offences happen in all communities and involve offenders and victims from a range of backgrounds.”

The key messages the constabulary would like to emphasise to anyone who has been subject to such offences are:

  • You are not alone.
  • You will be listened to – by the police and partner agencies.
  • Support is available, with or without police involvement.
  • You have choices of who you speak to but please speak to someone.
  • Reporting an incident can help you positively move forward.

DCI Coombes added: “Taking that first step to telling somebody what has happened to you is often the most difficult.

“But please know that if you do, you will be provided with information which will enable you to make choices on how you wish to move forward.”

Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Mike Johnson, said: “Rape and sexual assault are extremely serious crimes and unfortunately they do happen in Cumbria.

“By highlighting the positive work that the police do, I hope that the public gain more confidence to report rape and sexual assault to the police knowing that they will be listened to and support is available for them.

“I would encourage anyone who has experienced this abuse to report to the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency but I understand that this is not always the path that survivors wish to take.

“This is why the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner commissions services across Cumbria that can help anyone cope and recover – if you do not wish to report you can call Victim Support on 0300 303 0157 and they can help signpost you to the best service to suit your needs.

“Please reach out and do not suffer in silence – support is available.”


A list of services available in your postcode area are summarised here: sexualviolencesupport.co.uk


If you wish to report to police you can do so online at Report a crime | Cumbria Police

You can also phone on 101.

Always phone 999 in an emergency or if a crime is in progress.

Leave a comment

Next and Previous CandoFM News

Now playing: Kasabian with Ill Ray (The King)
  • https://streaming04.liveboxstream.uk/proxy/candofm_main?mp=/stream;