Rachel Grate
April 16, 2015 8:16 am

On the list of things that keep me up at night, rape culture is pretty high. But then there are initiatives like #ThisDoesntMeanYes which make me confident that women are fighting back in anyway they can. #ThisDoesntMeanYes is a new campaign here to dismantle victim-blaming and clarify what consent really means. It’s powerful, and bold, and incredibly poignant.

As a society, we’ve finally gotten to the point where most of us realize that “no means no” — that if a woman says she doesn’t want to have sex, forcing her to do so is unequivocally rape. (The fact that some people still don’t realize this is absolutely TERRIFYING, BTW.) But what if there’s not a “no”?

Rape victims are often blamed for their own assault if they are too drunk to consent, or are too scared for their personal safety to vocalize a “no.” According to Amnesty International, more than a quarter of British citizens think that a woman is partly responsible for her rape if she’s wearing sexy or revealing clothing.

Not only does this legitimize rapist’s actions, this belief on a jury also leads to rapists getting off in court. (Sad reminder: 97% of rapists go unpunished.) Again, NONE of this is okay.

#ThisDoesntMeanYes wants to put an end to this misplaced blame. Started by Rape Crisis South London, the billboard campaign features women in all styles of dress, even winking at the camera, with the text #ThisDoesntMeanYes scrolled across the top. Their models are just regular, inspiring women from London who want to take a stand against rape culture.

Many other anti-rape campaigns have spent their money to educate women on how not to be raped — instead of educating men on what rape is. These campaign organizers wanted to go in a drastically different direction, to place the responsibility not on women to police their own behavior, but on men to respect women no matter what that behavior is.

“Most of the women we met felt passionately about responding to the victim blaming and the scaremongering they’d felt from other campaigns,” the organizers told Telegraph.

To make their mission clear, #ThisDoesntMeanYes published a simple yet powerful manifesto:

The manifesto perfectly summarizes why steps like California’s recent Yes Means Yes bill are so necessary. The bill finally clarifies consent as affirmative, conscious, and voluntary, but the rest of the country and world still hasn’t made that step. Hopefully this campaign will provide the extra push politicians need to follow suit and finally move beyond the concept of “no means no” to only “yes means yes.”

Images via #ThisDoesntMeanYes

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