Victory
Petitioning Sussex Police

Withdraw your 'rape prevention posters' which blame victims of sexual assault

Sussex Police recently created a 'rape prevention poster' as part of their summer safety campaign. The poster reads, "Which one of your mates is most vulnerable on a night out?" It continues, "Many sexual assaults could be prevented. Stick together and don't let your friend leave with a stranger or go off on their own".

It may be well meaning and it's not bad advice to encourage people not to leave their friends behind on a night out. There have been a number of successful campaigns that target men to step in to prevent assaults and the work the police are doing to train those working in the night-industry is surely welcome. The issue is that this poster targets women who are most likely to be victims and puts the responsibility on them to prevent their own and their friends’ attacks. We forget that the people who have the most power to prevent rape and sexual assault from happening are not friends or bystanders but rather the perpetrators of the crime - the rapists. 

This kind of messaging is dangerous and plays into the victim-blaming culture we have in our society. Not only can it stop victims of such crimes from coming forward or accessing support due to fear that they will be blamed or not believed, but it can also trigger survivors and reinforce their own feelings of shame and blame. It also supports the myth that rape is something done by a "stranger in the dark" which is not the case in the vast majority of cases. Women are sexually assaulted in their workplaces, on the bus and in their homes. 89% of victims know their perpetrators.

With 85,000 women raped and 400,000 sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year, and 1 in 5 women (aged 16-59) being a victim of a sexual offence, this is something we need to tackle in the UK. Posters which targeted young men as overwhelmingly the perpetrators are men or which dealt with consent would be more effective.

I hope you can join me in asking Sussex Police to withdraw these posters. We shouldn't be focusing on a victim's behaviour, but rather, telling rapists not to rape. Walking home alone is not a crime - rape is.

Thank you,
June

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