Please Be Better Not OK: Yet Another Rape Prevention Campaign Shames Victims Margaret Eby

The good people of the Internet doled out a much-needed correction this week to a rape awareness campaign poster from England’s National Health Service. The campaign, which first launched between 2005 and 2007 but was recently recycled, showed a black and white shot of a woman in distress along with the caption, “One in three reported rapes happens when the victim has been drinking.”

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It’s a well-meaning campaign that completely misses the mark. Blaming the victim for sexual assault is an old, tired tactic. It shifts responsibility onto women who experience violence rather than the people who actually initiate it. Which is why Twitter user @neverjessie helped fix the poster.

In the revised version, the poster reads: “Three in three reported rapes happen when someone decides to commit rape.”

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It’s good general advice to tell women (and men, for that matter) to be aware of their surroundings and circumstances. Drinking is often a factor in assaults. But talking about alcohol evades the actual problem: rape culture and the pervasive assumption that men have agency over women’s bodies. Assault is never justified by what a woman is wearing or drinking, and pretending that the fault here lies on the victim is offensive. The ordeal is similar to posters on the Vancouver Skytrains that informed riders that “Not reporting sexual assault is the real shame,” a ham-fisted attempt to combat shame with still more shame that likewise places the burden on the victim.

The real problem is that rape culture is so deeply engrained in our culture that even posters attempting to combat sexual violence play into it. That is how deeply rooted the assumption is that victims of assault are “asking for it” through their mannerisms. Clearly, even those who are trying to help correct the problem need their awareness raised.

 

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  1. Honestly this article is sending the wrong message, not the poster, and should be taken down. Do you guys even read the comments? The consensus is pretty clear.

  2. I completely disagree. I don’t think this campaign’s intent is to blame the victim AT ALL. They are stating a fact. This is about awareness. This is about women taking responsibility for their own well-being, health and safety.
    Fact: There are many rape cases where alcohol is involved, like the poster said.
    Fact: Alcohol impairs judgement, causes slurring of speech, can cause blackouts, make you impulsive, denies you full control over your own body.. I mean we all know this stuff we learned it in health/ reallife?!?
    Rapists will be rapists, alcohol or not.
    I think what the alcohol statistic is pointing to is the situations that many men and women find themselves in every weekend, or weeknights, at bars, or college parties especially! Rape culture? sure. Binge drinking culture? Yeah. That’s a problem. Anyone who thinks that they can’t be possibly putting themselves into a potentially dangerous situation by binge drinking in a chaotic environment where everyone else is drinking too is not using their brain.
    People go out with the intention of hooking up. And yes, you could be too drunk, and maybe you couldn’t communicate, or got lost, or couldn’t find your freinds, or whatever, but had ended up with wrong guy, and in a matter of minutes your whole life would change.
    Let’s be honest. If you’re doing everything to can to keep yourself safe, if you’re watching your alcohol intake, if you’re not going home, or to the bathroom, or a dorm room, or a car, with someone you just met, or you go out with friends that you know and trust, and you’re not getting intoxicated and walking home alone by your self etc.. then I’d say your chances of becoming a victim of a violent and heartbreaking crime have greatly decreased.
    That doesn’t mean its never going to happen, you’re not crossed off a list, but this is about taking responsibilty.
    Nobody is saying you are asking for it by drinking.
    Just be aware by what you are doing, who you are doing it with, and where you are.

  3. To me, this doesn’t sound so much as victim blaming as it is trying to raise awareness for being alert to your surroundings. It isn’t blaming the victims for drinking, it is merely stating an–alarmingly–true statistic so people could hopefully make better decisions when drinking around company they don’t necessarily trust or know too well. Unfortunately, rape has not been eradicated but taking measures to protect oneself could potentially lower that statistic. Drinking wisely and knowing one’s limits is one of them.

  4. Like the majority of comments below, I agree that the poster isn’t directing blame for the rape, but trying to raise awareness of how the victims can try to protect themselves.

    As a man, who would never consider forcing myself onto anyone, there are cultures out there that support rape. America isn’t one. Go talk to women in culture’s where if they are raped they will be stoned to death, and then you can talk about rape culture.

    No one has any right to another’s body. We live in a world where violence can and will happen. We all need to make decisions to try to protect ourselves from becoming victims. Campaigns like this are trying to raise that awareness. They aren’t passing blame, they are trying to arm potential victims.

  5. The second is true, but when are potential rapists more likely to choose to rape someone? When they are drunk. If a news bulletin goes out that there’s a thief stealing bikes from garages, and I just leave mine wide open, the criminal is the one who made the choice to steal, but I failed to prevent such an act from occurring. The problem with equating this to rape is that there’s a shift in morality and seriousness of the crime, which is why my comparison should be taken with a grain of salt. This poster isn’t saying “Drinking is like signing a rape warrant”, which would be totally not ok. But, this gives a sobering statistic that one should plan ahead, and take precaution when the fact of the matter is that there are horrible people out there. There is no justification of rape in this poster. None.

  6. Of course there is no excuse for rape, but I don’t think you’re really going to change a rapist’s mentality through a print advertisement. What you can do is warn women about the risks, encourage them to maintain control over their bodies, and take caution against putting themselves in a risky situation. Perhaps there could have been better copy and images to do this, but it comes down to getting the most impactful message conveyed through the medium.

  7. I agreed wholly with the majority of comments already posted below that just because the RAPIST is solely to blame and THERE IS NO EXCUSE for rape. That does not mean people should not take preventative measures and try and stay safer when they’re out.

    Aside from that, the biggest problem I have with this article and other similar ones on this site is the focus on women! They seem to imply that fighting the good fight for rape awareness is an act of feminism?!? In this case, the campaign posters in no way implied shame to women’s bodies, behavior or sexuality’. (Yes a photo of a woman is used but they had to pick someone) And they use the word VICTIM as in ANYONE. So why is the article so focused on women (apart from that one little comment about men in the bracket) ?

  8. I feel like the original poster was more informative rather than accusative. What I gathered from it was that when drinking, you should stay in a group or make sure you’re taken care of. These standpoints on rape are ridiculous. Should it happen? Absolutely not. However, that does not mean we shouldn’t take preventative measures and know the statistics for when and where most sexual assault takes place.

  9. Why is spreading information always construed as victim shaming by women? Did most women know the stats? I highly doubt it the way I see them dress and drink on the weekends. You are absolutely right that anyone should be able to do what they want and wear what they want but if I lay in the Sun naked for a few hours my ass will get burnt, that’s not shaming me, that’s just the facts. You are right about one thing, that even the people that do try and help are themselves shamed for “not doing it right”. Funny the people that have time to revise other people’s activism posters are sitting on their asses critiquing those out there doing actual work.

  10. The problem is that there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what isn’t. If this were an advertisement for theft it would say ‘thieves operate in this area, make sure your valuables are hidden’ which is essentially the same thing. The problem is that we wouldn’t blame anybody for being robbed but unfortunately that is sometimes the case with rape. Especially in certain cultures where women are unfortunately considered less worthy and have fewer rights.
    It is sensible to be weary when you’re drinking that you become more vulnerable but it’s important to remember that no victim asks to be raped. By definition rape is a forceful act without invitation.

  11. I understand that victims aren’t to blame. Again, that’s not what the ad is saying, that is how you’re choosing to interpret it. You see the difference? You’re spinning it to look bad. Another equally valid interpretation is reading it exactly as it was written. You didn’t do that, though, did you?

    • It seems that spreading statistics or just about any ad that tries to raise awareness for rape counts as victim shaming.

  12. Yet another hellogiggles article that completely misses the point and takes things way too personally. These guys are our friends. Quit pushing people away when they’re trying to help prevent rape and dole out justice for the victims.

  13. I never do get this. Of course the rapist would be solely to blame, but saying that rapists target the drunk or that drunk people might be less able to defend themselves from any kind of assault isn’t untrue. Saying ‘be a bit careful when you drink, if possible’ isn’t bad advice at all. Especially in England, where we drink a lot from the age of 18.

    If we weren’t talking about rape, saying ‘be a bit careful, if possible’ wouldn’t be branded as victim blaming. If, for example, you were in a dodgy area and a friend told you not to walk home drunk for fear of getting mugged or stabbed, that wouldn’t be bad advice. If you did get drunk and tried to walk home, would it be your fault if anything happened? No, not at all. But should your friend have not said anything?

    Also, it’s not ‘England’s’ NHS, it’s the UK’s NHS

  14. the campaign wasn’t recycled – but a number of doctor’s surgeries, hospitals etc never took the posters down in the first place. the home office have refused to apologise for the posters or order them to be removed as it is an old campaign and they should already be taken down and they “don’t see what the problem is”. disgusted. this is the link to the petition http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/jeremy-hunt-nhs-home-office-remove-all-copies-of-this-poster-and-stop-victim-blaming?share_id=fTGwesIpoI&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

    • Please explain to me how this is victim blaming. Explain to me why its okay to attack any organization that is doing something about it.

  15. Sort of like saying we wouldn’t need locks if people would just not steal. As ideal as that would be, it’s not going to happen. You need secure locks, and getting wasted in public is like leaving your car unlocked, unsupervised, and alarm off, so just don’t, or if you do I don’t see how you get to complain about a missing radio. Getting wasted is freakin pointless anyway, and a big indicator you don’t care about yourself, which is a sign to any victimizer you would be an easy pick. “Car unlocked and unsupervised” is exactly equal to “wasted and don’t know what’s going on” is exactly equal to “I don’t care about my stuff”. I don’t think the advert was out of line at all, if anything the response was more absurd.

  16. -_- No one deserves to be raped. Also important, try to be mindful. There is no way you could know that the people you’re around will rape you. It is intelligent, however, to be mindful of the company you do keep and who you trust around you when you are incapacitated. It is a valid point to say “Do not be drunk around people you don’t think you can trust.”

    I think you draw the lines of ‘rape culture’ too deeply. I do not see a problem with that statistic. Your interpretation is that blame is being drawn on the victims. I do not see that – I see that a statistic is being reported about the incidences of rape. The question is “What can you do about rape?” and “How can I keep myself safe?”

    Above is a piece of data – 1 in 3 reported rapes having something to do with alcohol. In an ideal world, no one would rape anyone. This is not an ideal world therefore you must tackle the issue from any and all sides to minimize the damages. What can you do to be safe? What can you do to stop others from being rape-y? This isnt victim-blaming, this is tackling a terrible issue head on.

    Take the statistic for what it is. Don’t drink with people who you cannot trust. We have not eradicated rape nor have we removed the idea that its a conceivable thing to do. All you can ask for in a non-perfect world scenario is to teach and be mindful.

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