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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Alcohol Awareness Poster Accused of Blaming Rape Victims

A Change.org petition asks the British national health agency to ban a poster that "shifts blame for rape onto the victim."

3 Substance

Over 17,500 people have signed a Change.org petition to ban a British alcohol awareness poster that “shifts blame onto rape victims if they drink too much.” The government-sponsored poster features the face of a distraught rape victim, with the words “One in three reported rapes happens when the victim has been drinking.” It has been running since 2006 as part of the National Health Services (NHS) “Know Your Limits” campaign, targeting binge drinking among young people.

But many say the poster sends a harmful message about sexual assault that indicates its the victim’s fault. “The poster implies that, had the victims of one in three reported rapes not been drunk, those rapes would not have happened,” says petitioner Dr Alexis Thomas, “This is a false argument and one that shifts the blame for the rape to the victim, similarly to previous suggestions that women who dress provocatively are ‘asking’ to be raped.”

The Change.org petition is asking for the NHS to “remove all copies of this poster and stop victim blaming.” And lots of folks are taking to social media to urge people to sign: “I didn’t realize rape was a potential side effect of women drinking – sign the petition to get the posters removed” tweets Sophie Wood.

The petition points out that the poster’s message conflicts with the NHS’ own guidelines on seeking help for rape or sexual assault, in which they say: “If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.”

Petitioner Laura Blair comments: “Three in three reported rapes happen when a rapist rapes someone. Rape is always decision of the rapist, and never that of the victim. Ever.”