West Midlands Police has launched a new initiative aimed at tackling sex offences in the gay community – and is urging licensed venues to back the scheme by ensuring staff are trained to help protect vulnerable customers.

Officers from the force’s Public Protection Units are launching the campaign in the face of increasing sex attacks on gay men – some of whom are being preyed upon at so called “Chem Sex” parties.

A series of training days were held on Thursday 17 May – International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO) – to raise awareness among bar and door staff at licensed LGBT premises and empower them to intervene if they believe any customer is at risk.

West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Pervez Mohammed is leading the project. He said:

“We want all licensed premises to take responsibility for the welfare of their customers… their staff could help prevent someone from suffering a serious sexual assault.

“The training will help staff better identify vulnerable people – maybe someone who is drunk and has become detached from friends on the night – who is at risk of being taken advantage of and potentially sexually assaulted.

“We want those workers to be empowered and feel confident to step in, ask questions and offer support should they suspect someone is vulnerable.

“The training programme is focused at venues in the LGBT community. We have seen some cases of gay men being sexually assaulted at ‘chem sex parties’ having voluntarily taken, or being plied with, synthetic drugs.

“Again we’re hoping the awareness raising and training programme will help staff identify people who could be at risk.”

West Midlands Police officers in the city's Gay Quarter over Pride weekendWest Midlands Police
West Midlands Police officers in the city’s Gay Quarter over Pride weekend

West Midlands Police is working with local authority licensing teams and specialist sexual violence prevention workers from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) to run seven training sessions on May 17 in Coventry, Birmingham and the Black Country.

And Insp Mohammed said the project also aims to encourage use of the Ask for Angela scheme – which provides sanctuary for people who want to escape unwanted advances in pubs – and to urge victims to report offences.

He added: “If someone feels uncomfortable, intimidated or threatened they can approach a staff member and Ask for Angela. It’s a code phrase signalling to the venue that the person would like to be taken to a back room to get away from a situation.

“I’d urge anyone who has suffered a sexual assault to report it either directly to us or to a support agency such as RSVP or CRASAC. We suspect some victims don’t come forward because they may have been attacked at a party where drugs have been taken – and offenders rely on that to get away with their crimes.

“But it’s crucial victims do come forward and speak in confidence to specially trained officers in our Public Protection Unit so we can get them support and take action against offenders to stop them potentially committing further attacks.”

To speak to someone in West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Units call 101 or contact RSVP, the Coventry Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) or sex offences support group Crisis Point based in Walsall.

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