PARTY-GOERS are being urged to stay safe during the festive period by following simple tips from detectives who investigate sexual offences.

Police, the NHS and voluntary groups traditionally see a rise in reported rapes and sexual assaults during the party season.

But the authorities are keen to stress that being drunk is never a reason not to report being sexually assaulted or an excuse for committing a sexual assault.

They are urging revellers to take a few simple steps to ensure they have a great night out without putting themselves at risk, and to report any incidents to them.

Detective Inspector Steve Jones from Merseyside Police’s specialist rape investigation team, Unity, said support was out there for victims and said they did not have to be scared about coming forward.

He said: “We will always take complaints of rape and sexual assault extremely seriously and treat victims with the care and sensitivity they deserve. There is never any justification for sexually assaulting someone and drinking too much is no excuse if you are the perpetrator.” “‘No’ means ‘no’ and if the person that you have sex with is unable to say yes or no due to intoxication, then that is rape.”

The Unity Team, which is based in Allerton, south Liverpool, was set up at the start of 2010, to ensure that allegations of such a sensitive nature are investigated to the highest standard.

Specially trained officers work side-by-side with expert CPS lawyers to build cases so that the prosecution has the best evidence possible to take into court.

The Unity Team also links in with support services such as Armistead Street, SAFE Place Merseyside (The SARC), Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) and other organisations to ensure victims are looked after from the moment they report the assault right through to when it reaches court, and beyond.

DI Jones, added: “Our partners do an immensely important job, both in providing expert care and support for people reporting rape and sexual assault, and also, in the case of Safe Place Merseyside, ensuring that forensic evidence and intelligence from self-referrals is passed on to the police for investigation.

“While we would always urge someone who has been the victim of sexual abuse to report it to the police as soon as possible, we also understand that people do not always feel comfortable to do it this way.   “Instead, they can report it to Armistead, Safe Place, Rape Crisis or the Survivors Trust and, if they want to at a later stage, still get the police involved so that the person responsible is brought to justice.

“People should be able to enjoy their Christmas night without fear of being victimised when they are drunk and at their most vulnerable. Most rapes and sexual assaults happen between people who know each other, not complete strangers, but if true consent is not given, it is a crime and we will take appropriate action.”

Merseyside Police will be out in force during the festive period to ensure people feel safe while enjoying their office party of Christmas night out.

Here are some simple steps revellers can take to ensure they remember their night out for the right reasons:   Stay with your friends – don’t go to the toilet, the bar, the cash machine or for a cigarette on your own – stay in a group and look out for each other Don’t accept drinks from strangers – they could be extra-strong or even spiked, and don’t leave your drink unattended, even if it’s a soft drink Pace yourself – getting blind drunk puts you at risk – instead, have a soft drink in-between an alcoholic one and remember, it is an offence for a bartender to serve you if you are intoxicated Pre-book your cab and leave with your friends – use a well-known firm and check the driver’s ID and licence is visible inside the taxi. Also, make sure someone at home knows you are on your way and which firm is driving you Trust your instincts – if it feels wrong it probably is so get out of the situation as quickly as possible and call 999 if you feel at risk or threatened

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