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.
The 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 I understand the concerns that have been raised about the poster and they will be withdrawn.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.”