Police are launching a campaign to help prevent sexual offences over the Christmas period.

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This festive season, as part of the ‘Don’t cross the line’ campaign, officers are urging men to think about the consequences of their actions, and handing out leaflets with some key personal safety advice aimed at preventing further offences of this nature.

One of the key elements of the campaign is to raise awareness about what actually constitutes rape, including taking advantage of a woman who is too drunk to agree to sex.

Dc Emma Jones, a detective on the sexual offences team, said: “It’s important for people to understand what rape is. If a person drinks to the point where they are unable to give consent then that is rape.

“You will be committing a serious sexual offence which carries a hefty custodial sentence – and will ruin the rest of your life.”

Officers are also issuing advice for people attending ‘Christmas dos’ this season to ensure they get home safely.

This advice includes:

• Look out for friends, consider having a ‘buddy’ system

• Plan your route home carefully

• Save some cash for a taxi and make sure you get a licensed cab

• Keep a watchful eye on your drink – who is buying it for you and what are their motives?

DCI Scott Cannon, head of the sexual offences team, said: “This is the time of year when people are starting to go out on their Christmas dos with friends and work colleagues. For some, this may be the only time of year when they go out and potentially end up drinking to excess.

“We certainly don’t want to stop people from enjoying themselves, but we need to ensure they get home safely.

“I want to stress that in no way is a victim ever to blame for a sexual assault, however it is important to take some simple precautions to protect yourself and your friends.”

Police are also urging women who have been the victim of sexual offences to come forward and report it, in the confidence that they will be given the support they need.

DCI Cannon said: “If you have been a victim of a sexual assault please do come forward and report it to us. Essex Police take all reports seriously, and every case will be dealt with sensitively and professionally.”

To report an offence call Essex Police on 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress.

Alternatively, if you do not wish to report to police, or are undecided about what to do, you can contact Oakwood Place, the dedicated Sexual Assault Referral Centre for Essex. They offer a self-referral service to men and women over the age of 18 and can advise you on your next step ranging from a forensic examination to sexual health advice. They can be contacted on 01277 240620.

Support is also available via South Essex Rape & Incest Crisis Centre (SERICC) who can provide services including counselling and information. Their sexual violence telephone helpline number is: 01375 380609, or call SOS Rape Crisis on 01702 303232 which covers the south of the county, or the Centre for Action on Rape & Abuse on 01206 769795 for the north of the county.

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