Anti-rape poster campaign cut short after huge protest

Posted On 10 Apr 2015 at 3:24 pm

Sussex Police says it is cutting short its controversial anti-rape poster campaign after a massive outcry from feminist campaigners who said it blamed victims.

Rape victim posterThe posters, the first phase of a wider rape prevention campaign, encouraged friends to stay together to help prevent sexual offences – but this message was criticised as laying the blame for attacks at the feet of victims rather than the perpetrators.

Hundreds of people have since signed a petition calling on Sussex Police to withdraw the poster – and this afternoon, the force apologised and said it was “foreshortening” this part of its campaign.

Detective Superintendent Paul Furnell, Head of Public Protection, said: “The way we have gone about this campaign has caused some concern. This was not the intention of our message and for that I apologise.

“We have listened to our partners and we have reached the decision to foreshorten this particular part of the campaign.

“The posters were not intended in any way to blame victims. I understand the concerns that have been raised about the poster and they will be withdrawn. I would like to stress that the posters were well intentioned with the sole aim of preventing people becoming victims of crime.

“Sussex Police is determined to continue to raise awareness of this issue and, with the support of partners, target those who seek to exploit and abuse vulnerable people.

“Together we are committed to tackling all violence against women, girls, men and boys and will continue a campaign that will focus on rape and sexual offences that will deal with consent, perpetrators, prevention, awareness, education and vulnerability.”

June Eric-Udorie, who started the petition which has now been signed by more than 800 people, said: “I’m ecstatic that Sussex Police have agreed to withdraw the posters – and so quickly too.

“It shows that when people come together and ask for change, that change can happen.

“Sussex Police have done brilliant things to prevent rape and sexual assaults from happening, as well as supporting victims and survivors of these crimes.

“But these posters sent a very clear message, blaming victims of rape and sexual assaults rather than focusing on the perpetrators and putting the shame and blame on them.

“I’m glad that Sussex Police listened because we can never really end violence against women if we continue to focus on them rather than the perpetrators of these crimes.

“Thank you to everyone who supported my petition and who spoke out about this. These small victories matter, because they are the stepping stones to a world in which women have the freedom to live their lives free form violence.”

James Rowlands, strategic commissioner for domestic and sexual violence for Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council said: “I welcome Sussex Police’s decision to withdraw this poster, in recognition of the feedback they have received.

“I look forward to working with them in the future as we, and our partners in Sussex, have a shared commitment to supporting victims, raising awareness about consent and most importantly holding to account those who commit rape or sexual assault.”

  1. Anon Reply

    Sussex Police are stupid. A poster campaign that would have been fine 5 years ago is suddenly offensive?

    Oh, please. Go walk on your own then. See how far you get. Idiots.

  2. Steve Colgan Reply

    This is such a difficult tightrope to walk.

    I was a cop for 30 years in London and I was involved in several initiatives aimed at trying to prevent sexual assaults. Some campaigns were more successful than others but anything that even hinted at the idea that young women must play some part in their own personal safety or the safety of their friends was, just like this campaign, shouted down and we were accused of blaming the victims. It was hugely frustrating at times. We were never suggesting that.

    There is a HUGE difference between a sensible attitude to personal safety and ‘asking for it’.

    The sex attacker is ALWAYS the bad guy. No question. I lost count of the number of times that I had to reiterate that the victims were not to blame, were never to blame, and that it was the cowardly, predatory attacker who was the bad guy in EVERY case. But I would also have to point out that, while we can run education programmes to change men’s attitudes, increase penalties, make the judicial process less harrowing,and improve conviction rates etc., there is no town or city in the world that is 100% safe; there never has been such a place and I doubt there ever will be. There will never be enough cops to protect every person 24/7 (and numbers continue to dwindle) and, no matter how much education we throw at men, there will always be a few sickos who will offend. As Times columnist India Knight wrote not so long ago, ‘In an ideal world you could cartwheel home not wearing anything at all and know that you were safe, because anyone you might pass understood fully that they had no right whatsoever to touch a hair on your head. In the real world there are predatory men with demented, damaged ideas about women. […] There are men who believe what they see on telly, online and in their silly little magazines — that all women, everywhere, are gagging for it. The problem isn’t originated by women. But since all of us are its potential victims, splitting hairs about feminist theory and getting irate at the fact that the world isn’t how it’s supposed to be doesn’t get one far: it’s like going to bed with the door unlocked and the windows open because nobody has a right to help themselves to your property.’

    Just a few months ago, I was in Nottingham giving a talk. On my walk back to my hotel, I passed by a young woman – late teens or early 20s – sat against a wall and so drunk I could barely get any response from her. I phoned for an ambulance rather than police because I reckoned she needed medical care more than she needed a night in police cells. Had it been a predatory man who’d found her instead of me, they could have done whatever they wanted to her. I’m thankful they didn’t. But there will always be a tiny minority of men who would have taken the ‘opportunity’. She wouldn’t have been to blame for her attack; she would be the victim. But that wouldn’t have stopped it from happening.

    When founding the police, Sir Robert Peel said that ‘The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence’. It’s incumbent upon all of us to look out for ourselves and others, especially those we care about. We can’t expect to abrogate all responsibility for our personal safety, surely?

    I’m no longer a cop but I still write about crime and policing. I’d like to think that I’m as feminist as a male can be and those who know me would hopefully tell you the same. I’ve seen some brilliant work done by police and other agencies to reduce incidences of rape and sexual assault – long may that continue. Like any sane person, I want to see NO incidences of these horrible damaging crimes. I have a wife, daughters, a granddaughter and I want them to be safe and feel safe. But that has involved me giving them some solid advice about self-protection – including advice on looking out for their friends. It’s a sticking plaster solution that wouldn’t be needed if we lived in the kind of ideal society where all women are safe wherever they go and whatever they do. How wonderful that would be. But we don’t and, while I hope that it happens some day, it’s some way off. Society – in particular some men’s attitudes towards women – has to change radically. But, until it does, for the moment at least we have to consider less than ideal solutions.

    I don’t believe for a minute that anyone is naive enough to believe that, because they have an absolute right not to be molested (which they have), it won’t ever happen. I also would find it hard to believe that anyone thinks that they have no part to play in personal safety. If people did think like that, they’d never lock their front doors or lock their cars and would walk down every dark alleyway confidently assured that they are completely safe.

    Therefore, I’d love to hear from anyone who can suggest a way to encourage personal safety for women in a way that doesn’t suggest that they are, in any way, to blame if a man commits a sexual offence against them. If you can, you’ll be helping every police service in the UK to keep women safe and you’ll doing something positive to stop future attacks.

    • Caitlin Reply

      Steve, what you say would be fine if it were part of a secondary personal safety campaign aimed at all young men and women.

      We know young men and women (and indeed older ones)can drink to excess and behave irresponsibly so of course it makes sense to stick to together and look out for each other. I don’t have any issue with that sort of campaign.

      But it shouldn’t be the first line of attack. Women can’t stop rapes happening;nor can victims of mugging stop that either. Rape will stop happening only when rapists stop raping.

    • Meherenow Reply

      I’t’s like going to bed with the door unlocked and the windows open because nobody has a right to help themselves to your property.’’

      The act of walking alone to my destination IS in no way an invitation for someone to insert their penis in my vagina. Why would you compare a house to a body?

      ‘Look out for your friends’ is great advice from a parent, but bad advice from the police when starting a rape awareness campaign.

      • Moi Reply

        You’re missing the point.

        The reality is that some people do rape other people just as some people do burgle other people’s property. Therefore, it is wise to take steps to minimise either from happening.
        A drunk woman who walks down a dark road alone in an enriched area, for instance, is taking a risk with her personal safety as much as someone who leaves their front door unlocked with gold jewelery on display is taking a risk with the security of their house.
        Neither is to blame if they are a victim of rape or burglary because the fault lies with the criminal; it’s simply a matter of minimising that risk.

  3. Sensible Sally Reply

    Pointless campaign. Sussex Police should have just ignored the silly ‘feminists’ who signed the petition.

  4. Theo Reply

    It’s not victim blaming.
    Look out for your mates!

  5. SS Reply

    Agreed – I’m a feminist and I’m baffled as to why this was considered a problem. Surely we could approach the problem from multiple points of view – including taking care of your friends. Is that really so wrong to ask?

  6. Real Sexism Reply

    Usual crazy feminist bull.
    These people have no interest in stopping rape.
    They seem to thrive off victim-hood and offence, in fact the more rapes happening the more people they can recruit into the cult of crazy. Attempting to stop rape is Victim Blaming, wow.
    Feminism in a nutshell.

  7. Cat Reply

    So if this isn’t offensive why not run a consecutive campaign urging young men not to let their mates wander off alone in case they rape someone? If we’re going to play the blame game why not point the finger at everyone?

    • Tom Reply

      It’s not a blame game. Do you honestly think that police is using resources to blame women for rape? Is this what you’re saying?

  8. Zoe Reply

    I find it scary that a 16 year old clueless selfproclaimed feminist (the girl who started the petition) can pressure the police into anything. Note that that there are women out there who are actually making a difference in the real world in regards to womens rights, and are getting dragged into this ridiculous feminist hype. These people are destroying valuable work with their forced political correctness. There’s nothing remotely sexist about this campaign. You can debate its effectiveness but this shouldn’t have been taken down.

  9. Dave Reply

    beyond idiotic. would a poster telling children to look before crossing the road be blaming the victims?

    or imagine the headline: outrage as “phone thieves target london venues” poster seems to place the responsibility and blame on the victim

    the worst part is that this outrage has a negative by blocking the important point about reducing risks by looking after each other

  10. San Klaus Reply

    Why are normal feminists letting their radical fringes pull stunts like that ?
    The only people that will suffer out of this are the young kids who aren’t concerned about either side of this silly argument, and will allow themselves to live in an ever-constant, yet false sense of safety. The grand vast majority of men are not rapists by any means, but there always will be weirdos preying on naive teenagers. Be it rape, crime or drugs.

    The radical feminists SHOULD feel ashamed. But they won’t.

    And to the police, shame on you too. These fringe groups have not been elected to any sort of legitimate position by ANYONE. The tax-paying voters are your prerogative. What sort of police are you if you cave in at the whims of immature teenagers with access to the internet ?

    Absolutely disgusting.

  11. Titanium Dragon Reply

    We should just start calling these groups “pro-rape groups”, because anyone who is against people giving safety advice to prevent rapes is obviously for more people getting raped.

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