Police Scotland and partners in the Highlands and Islands are warning that rape and other sexual offences will not be tolerated.

Local officers are supporting the ongoing national Police Scotland "We Can Stop It" campaign aimed at preventing and reducing crimes of this nature.

Rape - sex without consent - is a serious criminal offence and takes many forms. If a person is unable to give consent for any reason then this is rape.  This could be if they are asleep or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being in a relationship does not give the right to have sex without consent.

As with any other division within Police Scotland, the Highlands and Islands has a dedicated Rape Investigation Unit which works closely with a range of partners to prevent sexual crimes occurring and to bring perpetrators to justice.Detective Chief Inspector Vincent Mclaughlin, head of the Highlands and Islands Public Protection Unit said: "Sexual offending is unacceptable and tackling this serious crime is a priority for Police Scotland, both nationally and locally in the Highlands and Islands.

"The only person to blame for a sexual offence is the perpetrator and a significant part of our work has to be the prevention of sexual crimes.  We work in partnership with a range of agencies across the public and third sectors to educate people raise awareness about what is and isn't acceptable behaviour.

"Our message is ultimately very simple. Sex without consent is rape.

"Our work is aimed at supporting and seeking justice for victims by taking robust action against perpetrators."

Gillian Gunn, Violence Against Women Development & Training Manager for NHS Highland said: “Experiencing rape as an adult, child or young person can have a significant effect on someone’s life.  It is important to remember that people can recover from sexual violence.  We are working together in Highland to improve how services respond to survivors of sexual violence and to prevent rape happening in our community.

“Some of the myths about consent, sex, and rape still exist and it is important that we continue to challenge these.  No one is responsible for rape other than the perpetrator.

“Something that we can all do is educate ourselves about rape and consent and challenge our friends and family if they perpetuate some of the myths.”

Moira Paton, manager of Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland said: "We very much welcome this campaign by Police Scotland. Non-consensual sex is a crime and can have a devastating impact on victims.  As well as supporting survivors of sexual violence we deliver a very well received prevention programme across schools in the Highlands and clarifying what consent means in practice is a key part of this.  As police have said, the only person ever responsible for rape or sexual assault is the perpetrator."

Detective Inspector Donald Macdonald of the Divisional Rape Investigation Unit added: "We have a dedicated team of specialist officers committed to investigating reports of rape or sexual offences.  Every report is taken seriously and we will sensitively and thoroughly investigate robustly to bring perpetrators to justice.

"Time is no barrier to justice, please report any offences which have occurred to us so we can take action.There are various ways to report an offence, either direct to Police Scotland or one of the many partner agencies such as Rape Crisis Scotland or Women's Aid."

You can contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.