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Police advice to avoid trouble

PUBLISHED: 14:05 09 August 2001 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 March 2010

TWO women have been raped in Ipswich's streets in the past four months and a third victim raped in toilet cubicle of a train heading out of the town. Crime reporter LISA BAXTER asked police for advice on personal safety following the latest brutal sex attack by a stranger.

TWO women have been raped in Ipswich's streets in the past four months and a third victim raped in toilet cubicle of a train heading out of the town. Crime reporter LISA BAXTER asked police for advice on personal safety following the latest brutal sex attack by a stranger.

THE rape of a teenager in a secluded Ipswich lane nearly a fortnight ago is the third high profile sex crime to hit southern Suffolk in recent months. Though almost nine in every ten rapes in Britain are carried out by someone known to their victim, in the three recent attacks the rapist has been a stranger.

In the latest sex attack, the 19-year-old victim – who comes from the Colchester area – was befriended by a stranger who pretended to offer her help at a time of need before luring her to a secluded lane and raping her on July 28.

Less than four months earlier on March 1, a mystery attacker dragged a 92-year-old Ipswich woman off the street as she returned home from a shopping trip. He pulled the pensioner backwards 100-yards and then raped her near garages off Cobbold Street.

And on March 28, a young Ipswich woman was raped by one of a gang of three men who boarded a London-bound train at Suffolk's county town. The 22-year-old had noticed the trio as she waited on the platform. She got up to move carriages when the men approached her on the train but they bundled her in to a toilet compartment and one of them raped her as his friends looked on.

The terrified victim managed to escape when the train slowed to a halt at Colchester North station. Her attackers are believed to have stayed on until Liverpool Street station.

Police are not linking the rapes.

All these attacks happened while one of the most horrifying cases of rape ever to happen in Ipswich is still fresh in people's minds.

In April last year Kevin Chambers was sentenced to life imprisonment after committing a sickening double rape on an Ipswich teenager in the town's St Matthew's Street subway in 1999.

Chambers committed the evil attack on the same day that he had been released from a prison sentence he had served for raping another woman in Clacton.

Crime prevention officer WPc Jane Corbett of Ipswich police said there are a series of precautions people can take to try and minimise the likelihood of becoming a victim of violence. While it is important not to raise the fear of crime, people should "be aware of personal safety so as not to increase risks," she said.

There are five questions to ask yourself when you are going out, she added. "Where am I going? How am I getting there? How am I getting back? Am I prepared for changes? Have I let someone know where I am?

"Think about what you are actually taking with you like do you have change for the telephone or do you know the number of a local cab firm."

Planning ahead in such a way means you won't end up climbing in any cab that stops.

"The best advice is to stay in well lit areas," she said of keeping safe at night, though she added that following personal safety advice and avoiding unnecessary risks was just as important during daylight hours.

"Be aware of what is around you, what's happening and any dangers that are around," she said. "You have to be so careful of who you speak to."

WPc Corbett said avoiding risks on the street was as important for men as for women. Men aged between 18 and 25 are the most likely group to be victims of a violent attack, she said. While women are more likely to be raped, young men are most likely to be victims of violence such as robbery and assault.

"Our advice is the same to men and women. Follow the five steps, don't walk in unlit areas and, if you can, use public transport, your own transport or try and walk together. If three of you are going out and two live close together, drop the third person off first and go on together."

Other steps you can take to reduce risks include walking with purpose and confidence and carrying a panic alarm.

The shrill noise from panic alarms – which cost £4 from the police and are the size of a marker pen – will make those around you aware of the situation, she said.

"It should be carried in your pocket or hand but not in your handbag," WPc Corbett added.

If you are being attacked you are unlikely to have the time to rummage in your handbag to find your alarm, she explained.

The sound of the alarm is likely to put an attacker off guard. "It might give you a few extra seconds to get away," she said. "It lets people know you're there."

Carrying things such as knives for personal protection is not only illegal but unwise, WPc Corbett said. "We would never encourage that, for your own safety and for that of others. If you carry a knife, it could be used against you. You have to think of your own safety."

While police can offer advice on how to try and avoid becoming a victim, there are few hard-and-fast guidelines about how to act in the event of you actually finding yourself under attack, she said. For there is no way of knowing how different people will react when they find themselves in the real situation. "There is just no way of knowing how your body is going to react." Some people just freeze, others can't help but struggle.

"We give talks so people don't get in to that situation in the first place," she said.

While you can take steps to avoid exposing yourself to unnecessary risk, there are times when you could find yourself stranded, alone and scared.

"If you are frightened and alone, phone the police," WPc Corbett said.

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