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Withdraw victim blaming underage drinking campaign poster

This petition had 85 supporters

The latest campaign from Drink Aware is targeted at women and girls with the message that unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections are likely consequences when children aged 13 drink just once. This campaign is predicated on victim blaming.

There is so much wrong with this campaign, it is hard to know where to start. The assumption that children of 13 have any valid and informed consent regards their own drinking and any subsequent sex is offensive. Children under the age of 16 are in no way capable of consenting to sex. The law is very clear on this: any adult who has vaginal, anal or oral intercourse with a child is committing rape. Other sexual activities with a child under the age of 16 constitute sexual assault. 38% of rapes reported to the police involve children under the age of 16. Unprotected rape is what happens to children, not unprotected sex.

With the recent press attention given to the horrific abuse of at least 1400 children in Rotherham, as well as York,Manchester and Glasgow, the use of the same victim blaming language and images that allowed the sexual exploitation of children to continue for so long is extremely distressing. This campaign ignores the fact that girls who are given alcohol are frequently given it as part of a grooming process of child sexual exploitation. It ignores the fact that children can and do repeat parental patterns of substance misuse and it ignores the fact that many children who do drink alcohol, especially girls, are using it as a way of dealing with trauma, including that of sexual abuse.

The use of a maternity sign clearly shows that it is females who are being targeted by this campaign. This ignores established research that excessive "binge drinking" is more common in males, as Drink Aware’s own research makes clear. Women should be protected from predatory males when sober and when drunk. Aiming your campaign at young girls erases the perpetrator. Research has shown that men who commit rape do so because they feel entitled to sex. It is this male entitlement which makes women vulnerable to sexually predatory behaviour - not alcohol. If you truly want to end sexual violence and the consumption of alcohol by children under the age of 18, you need to target male perpetrators and the larger culture of male entitlement which grooms young girls into sexual exploitation and rape. Let us be very clear here, no child under 13 can consent to sex and children under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual relationships with adult men. This is the law. The recent high profile conviction of a footballer for this very crime of raping a woman too drunk to give informed and valid consent means that the timing of the campaign is additionally insensitive.

This campaign needs to be withdrawn immediately. Drink Aware need to ensure all of their staff, especially those responsible for this campaign receive suitable, professional training from an organisation who will address the victim blaming attitudes obviously embedded within the organisation and those individuals.

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