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Anti-rape campaigners slam Sussex Police for ‘victim blaming’

Women’s rights groups and anti-rape campaigners have criticised a new poster campaign by Sussex Police which encourages women to “stick together” and not “let your friend leave with a stranger or go off on their own.”

Good advice, of course — safety in numbers and all that — but the message seems to have got lost in translation and the force has been accused of “victim blaming.”

Sarah Green, acting director of The End Violence Against Women Coalition, said she found the poster “infuriating,” adding: “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.”

Fabia Bates, director of the Survivors’ Network, said: “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. We are here to support anyone who has been the victim and will not judge anyone — it is never the victim’s fault.”

More: 7 Ways society is encouraging a rape culture

The Twitterati also responded accordingly. One user posted: “About as useful as a poster saying: ‘men, stick with your friends so they don’t go off and rape people.’ Not good,” while another wrote: “Maybe make a poster saying ‘don’t rape’ instead.”

Another tweeter suggested: “Please can you produce a poster of two lads with the caption ‘Make sure you don’t rape or assault anyone tonight!'”

Chief Inspector of Sussex Police Katy Woolford defended the campaign, saying: “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 recognise where their intervention may prevent a crime taking place.”

What do you think of Sussex Police’s poster? Were they right to try a new approach to an anti-rape campaign? Let us know in the comments below.

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