The year 2014 has dawn and, sadly, just like 2013, there are far, far too many people who still believe that a woman or girl who has too much to drink is opening herself up to become a victim of sexual assault.
The latest sign that thinking still hasn’t changed? A new ad campaign in the United Kingdom, which offers a series of posters depicting zombies that are supposed to raise public awareness for the dangers of binge drinking. According to The Independent, however, one poster has been under intense criticism by women’s rights groups for essentially arguing that one major “danger” is potential sexual assault.
“[I]n one of the images a drunken and disheveled young woman is pictured alongside the slogans ‘Night of the Reckless Drunk’ and ‘When you drink too much you lose control and put yourself at risk,’” reports The Independent.
Drinking too much can lead to a number of risks: physical dangers, drunken driving, long term health issues. But it shouldn’t be held responsible for sexual assault. Rapists are responsible for that, not their victims.
Karen Ingala Smith of Nia, an advocacy group that seeks to end violence to women and children, sees the message of the ad campaign as one that condones placing blame on victims for their own sexual assault. “There is no other crime in which victims are made to take responsibility. We know that the vast majority of rapes are not reported to the police and women are less likely to report rapes if they are made to feel that they are responsible,” she told the Daily Mail. “This campaign reinforces the excuses made by rapists as they attempt to discredit the women they rape and to justify their crime.”
Calderdale Council of West Yorkshire, who created the posters, say that any victim blaming is misconstrued, and that they used men in their ads as well. However, the male figures are used in warnings about impaired driving or ending up in self-harm situations that could require a visit to the hospital. They also, notably, don’t have their clothing partially removed in their pictures.
Are women’s rights advocates really reading too much into the poster, as Calderdale claims? If the group really wasn’t referring to sexual assault, why didn’t the poster of the woman refer to the same distinct and specific dangers that could happen if a person binge drinks that the male counterpart ads do? And an even better question, why is she beginning to fall out of her tight, short dress?
Addressing the problem of sexual assault by telling women and girls to be more careful and vigilant rather than talking to men and boys about what constitutes consent and enforcing real punishments for those who abuse seems to be escalating, however, and not just in the U.K. From the New Zealand lawyers arguing victims of assault should have closed their legs to American advice columnists telling college girls the best way to not get raped is to simply not drink, there is a growing movement of those who think the easiest way to deal with sexual assault is to simply remove any “temptation” rather than actually reform our culture.
It’s not difficult. Binge drinking can be harmful. But drinking doesn’t cause rape. Rapists do. It was not a woman’s job to protect herself from them in 2013, and it shouldn’t be in 2014.
Photo credit: Thinkstock