Women drinkers at risk of rape in Plymouth
POLICE figures have revealed the shocking role that alcohol plays in Plymouth rape cases.
The statistics have prompted a warning to revellers from the force.
They say women who get drunk in Plymouth's pub and clubland and lose track of their friends are at greater risk of sexual assault and rape.
And they warn men also put themselves at greater risk of being accused of rape if they target drunk women.
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Det Insp Mike Cooper said: "We do not want to scare people from enjoying the festive party season, but we want people to be vigilant, to be aware of who they're going home with. We don't want men or women to regret their actions because they misread or misjudged the other person because they were so drunk. Alcohol makes you vulnerable and far less capable of making an accurate risk assessment."
Shocking statistics have backed up what has long been warned by police – that of the alleged rape cases since April 1 this year, alcohol frequently played a crucial role.
Police carried out a profile of sexual assault and rape cases from April following a string of attacks on young women in the North Hill area of the city.
The figures highlighted the risk alcohol can pose to both women and men.
Of all the alleged rape cases – taking away "non-domestic" rapes by partner or ex-partners – 71 percent of all victims said they were "in drink".
Of those, 54 percent of the alleged victims had been drinking in the city's pubs and clubs, including the Barbican, Union Street, Mutley, North Hill and Barbican Leisure Park.
Det Insp Cooper said of those women in clubland alleging rape, 89 percent had become separated from friends and had tried to walk home alone or were waiting for a taxi when they met the offender.
Det Insp Cooper said: "We have had cases where they are just about to get into a taxi and the man offers to share it with them, or they offer to walk them home, buy them some food. And because the man seems like a nice guy they've accepted. They go home with them, invite them in.
"In the cold light of day, when sober, a woman would probably politely rebuff them.Also in the cold light of day, when sober and with a girl who was sober, a man would probably not force himself on a woman if he was invited in for a coffee. Everything is common sense – when you're sober."
Det Insp Cooper said a recent seminar by a criminal psychologist reiterated the relative myth of the masked rapist jumping out from bushes.
He said: "It's far more likely that a woman falls victim to a man who is also out in clubland, who is looking for a woman who is vulnerable, in drink, separated from her friends. This time of year we have more parties, more drinking, more celebrating. It's the season to be merry.
"What we are warning is don't put yourself at risk of being a victim of a sexual assault, or of being accused of committing a sexual assault, because of alcohol."
Last month The Herald reported on Operation Kingsand which followed a string of sexual assaults on young women in the North Hill area of the city. The police noted how a number of the victims had been drinking at the time of the assaults and appeared to have been specifically targeted by the suspects.
Det Insp Cooper, who is tasked with combating sexual assaults in the city, said: "Since The Herald highlighted the issue and our investigations, the number of such incidents have dramatically reduced. We've done a lot of work in the North Hill area and with the university and people are being more vigilant. We have also had more people come forward regarding historical offences over the past six months and we've numerous lines of inquiries about the suspects."