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Cambridge City Council

Council and partners work together to help keep Cambridge safe from sexual violence

9 February 2023

CAMBRIDGE City Council is supporting Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week – a national week to raise awareness about the unacceptability of sexual abuse and violence, from 6 to 12 February.

Council staff have been using the campaign’s theme #ItsNotOK to generate discussion and share facts, such as:

  • One in four women have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult
  • More than 90% of rape and sexual assault victims know their attacker
  • 68% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have been sexually harassed at work
  • One in six children have been sexually abused
  • One in 20 men have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult
  • Survivors often blame themselves
  • Women regularly feel unsafe at night
  • There are long-term impacts of sexual abuse, including poor mental health, loss of self-esteem, and isolation
  • The cost of living crisis is putting survivors at more risk of abuse and harm
  • Survivors often feel dismissed when they report sexual violence.

As well as marking Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Week each February, the council works throughout the year to help minimise sexual violence and support victims. Much of this work is undertaken with local partners through the Purple Flag Group, which brings together the Cambridge BID, city council, police, local business, Cambridge Businesses Against Crime, voluntary services and higher education organisations.

Through the partnership, a number of initiatives are in place to help keep Cambridge safe, particularly in relation to the night-time economy.

  • Professionally trained and licensed taxi marshals work on key dates throughout the year to help people get home safely after a night out in Cambridge. Operating from the central St Andrew’s Street taxi rank, the marshals manage the busy night-time queues, providing priority to anyone in distress or who may be vulnerable.
  • On weekends, a team of volunteer street pastors care for, listen to and help people who are out on the streets after a night out in the city. They also have a physical location on Saturday nights called NightLite (based in Downing Place URC) which provides a safe space for people to rest, recover or wait for friends or a taxi. 
  • The national Ask for Angela scheme has been adopted by many venues in Cambridge, facilitated by Cambridge Business Against Crime (CAMBAC). Individuals can approach bar staff and ask for ‘Angela’ and, in doing so, discreetly alert them to the fact that they feel vulnerable so staff can take appropriate action.
  • Venues across Cambridge are able to alert each other about suspicious behaviour of people moving from one pub, bar or club to another, supported by a communications network run by the police and CAMBAC.
  • Staff working in the night-time economy – such as in pubs, restaurants, bars and clubs – have also been provided with Welfare And Vulnerability Engagement training, which has been taken up by over 100 individuals in 2021/2022, from over 45 Cambridge businesses.
  • Cambridgeshire Constabulary has uniformed and plain-clothed police officers carrying out patrols in Cambridge through Operation Armour, looking for anyone displaying ‘concerning behaviour’ such as loitering, making unwanted contact towards people, or showing aggressive or dominating behaviour to help prevent sexual offences or harassment.
  • In its role as a licensing authority, the council also provides training for all licensed taxi drivers to allow them to identify and respond to concerns about the safety of their passengers, including those who may be at risk of sexual violence.
  • The Enough Campaign, led by Cambridgeshire Constabulary, is a campaign to encourage individuals to report abuse.

Together these initiatives play a part in Cambridge being awarded Purple Flag status, which means Cambridge is considered to be a safe and vibrant city between 5pm and 5am, having met or exceeded more than 30 judging criteria to qualify for Purple Flag status.

Another way the council works to tackle abuse and promote public safety is through its accreditation with White Ribbon – an international campaign to end male violence against women by working with men and boys to challenge cultures that lead to harassment, abuse and violence against women. This work ranges from internal policies and training for council staff, to ensuring support and housing services are available for those experiencing or fleeing abuse, and holding events such as a domestic abuse conference to mark White Ribbon Day.

Cllr Alice Gilderdale, Executive Councillor for Recovery, Employment and Community Safety, said: "The statistics we hear give us a clear message that there is still a long way to go to ensure no one becomes a victim of sexual abuse and violence and that the impacts of sexual abuse are often long-term and difficult to navigate.

“We want to ensure we're doing everything we can, alongside our local partners, to prevent sexual abuse and violence in Cambridge. As a council, we are grateful to have strong partnerships with local charities and organisations which mean that there is work being done year-round to support our residents.

“If you or someone you know is at risk of or experiencing abuse, support is available. Please get in touch."

Find support if you are affected by sexual abuse or sexual violence

  • Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre (free specialist support for women and girls across Cambridgeshire who have been subjected to rape and sexual violence, no matter when the abuse happened)
  • Men’s Advice Line (helpline for male victims of domestic abuse)
  • Survivors UK (specialist service for male victims aged 13+ who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives)
  • Galop (which has recently launched the UK’s first ever dedicated helpline to support LGBT+ victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse)
  • Childline
  • Choices Counselling (for adult survivors of child sexual abuse)


Councillors sharing the #ItsNotOK message

It's not OK that 68% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have been sexually harassed at work
It's not OK that one in 20 men have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult
It's not OK that one in four women have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult
It's not OK that more than 90% of rape and sexual assault victims know their attacked
It's not OK that survivors often feel dismissed when they report sexual violence
It's not OK that one in six children have been sexually abused