A British police force has come under fire for publishing posters that critics say place the blame for rape on women rather than male attackers.
Sussex Police issued the posters as part of a campaign to prevent rape. The force intends to put them up in pub toilets and bus stops.
Campaigners say the posters reinforce the message that victims rather than assailants are to blame in sexual assault cases.
Sussex Police defended the posters, saying it wanted to raise awareness that vulnerable people could be targeted by rapists.
The posters feature an image of two young women taking a selfie, with the caption: “Which one of your mates is most vulnerable on a night out? The one you leave behind.”
It goes on to say many rapes could be prevented if women “stick together and don’t let your friend leave with a stranger or go off on their own.”
Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the posters were sending the wrong message – to the wrong people.
“We need to get beyond police campaigns giving instructions to women on how to behave to be safe,” she told the Daily Mail. “We need to talk to those who may perpetrate rape and deter them.”
Women’s rights campaigner Celia Wilson echoed Green’s comments.
“We still live in a world where women get told that they can’t walk home on their own but men are absolutely fine to do so,” she told the BBC.
Twitter users berated Sussex Police force, accusing them of making the “victim” responsible for rape.
Another Twitter user took a creative approach to the poster. @oskmatz doctored the photo to depict men drinking, turning the message on its head.
Chief Inspector Katy Woolford defended the poster as part of a campaign encouraging friends and bystanders to intervene to prevent rape.
“Rape is never a victim’s fault, but as with all crimes we can reduce the number of victims in several ways,” she told the Mail Online.
“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.”
“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,” she added.
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