Police in Sussex, England, are under fire for allegedly blaming female victims in their rape prevention poster, which is part of a summer safety campaign.
The poster features a picture of two young women and includes the caption, “Which one of your mates is most vulnerable on a night out? The one you leave behind. Many sexual assaults could be prevented. Stick together and don’t let your friend leave with a stranger or go off on their own."
Katie Russell, of the organization Rape Crisis, told The Independent, "It’s not unreasonable for the police to advise this," but added, "Those with the real power to prevent sexual assaults in significant numbers, however, are not friends and bystanders but those who have sole responsibility for these terrible crimes – that is, the perpetrators."
Sarah Green, of the organization End Violence Against Women, told Metro.co.uk, "We need to get beyond police campaigns giving instructions to women on how to behave to be safe. We need to talk to those who may perpetrate rape and deter them."
The Telegraph reported in January that a new rule in the UK will require men to prove to the police that women consented to sex if they (men) are accused of date rape.
Fabia Bates, of the group Survivors’ Network, told Metro.uk.com, "It is a shame as Sussex Police has made great strides to encourage people to report sexual violence and there is the possibility this could damage people’s confidence. We are also concerned this suggests those other than the perpetrator are responsible."
However, Sussex Police Chief Inspector Katy Woolford told The Independent:
This is a real opportunity to make a difference. We would be failing in our response if, as with any other crime, we did not recognize that there are victims and urge them to take steps to minimize risks and help safeguard others from becoming victims.
This is the first time we have taken such an approach to raise awareness, with the first phase urging friends to stay together and look after each other, so that no one is left alone or goes off with a stranger. It is vital to be aware of vulnerability so that steps can be taken to guard against it. Friends and bystanders can play a key role in this, learning to recognize where their intervention may prevent a crime taking place.
The Sussex Police Twitter page was pounded with "victim blaming" accusations, but tweeted back, "rape is NEVER the victim's fault! But we can reduce number of victims in many ways. Friends and bystanders can play a key role."
Sources: The Independent, Twitter, Metro.co.uk, The Telegraph
Image Credit: Sussex Police Media Handout