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‘Don’t Be That Guy’ ad campaign cuts Vancouver sex assaults by 10 per cent in 2011

Detail from a Vancouver Police Department poster, part of a campaign the force has credited with helping reduce the rate of sexual offences in Vancouver.

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The message on the poster is blunt. A young woman in red tights and a skimpy black dress is flaked out on the edge of a couch, her head turned away. A few wine bottles are on the floor.

"Just because she isn't saying no doesn't mean she is saying yes," the poster says. "Sex without consent = sexual assault. Don't Be That Guy."

The poster is one of three that went up at bars and around the city last summer as part of a campaign to chip away at the increasing rate of sexual assaults in recent years in Vancouver.

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Six months later, Deputy Chief Doug LePard says the Don't Be That Guy campaign has contributed to a turnaround in statistics on sexual offences in Vancouver.

The rate dropped in 2011 by about 10 per cent, the first time in several years it had gone down.

Sexual assaults had defied recent trends in crime. While the overall rate dropped every year over the past decade, the rate of sexual offences went up. Strathcona had the highest number of sexual assaults in Vancouver from 2008 to 2010. The police linked the statistics to the large number of prostitutes in the area.

But Strathcona was not alone. Sexual assaults in downtown Vancouver, Coal Harbour and the West End increased by 22 per cent from 2008 to 2009 and went up another 29 per cent from 2009 to 2010. On the west side of Vancouver, sexual assaults dropped in 2009 but increased the next year to nearly the 2008 level.

Several assaults involved intoxicated young women who were vulnerable and lured by a predator, Deputy Chief LePard told the Vancouver Police Board earlier this week. The Don't Be That Guy program, which was developed in Edmonton and introduced recently in several Canadian cities, shifts attention from the victim to the offender.

The emphasis of public education is not limited to how women can make themselves less vulnerable, he said. The campaign aims to reach men with the message that they should not be "that guy," he said.

The reversal in the trend related to sexual assaults reflected the impact of the new education program, better training for police officers and more effective investigation and enforcement, he said.

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All members of the police department were trained on investigative techniques for sexual assault cases. The seriousness of the crime was reinforced. Most minor sexual offences, such as sexual exposing, often lead to more serious crimes, such as sexual assaults, Deputy Chief Lepard said.

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