Earlier this week I became aware, via Sociological Images, of a controversial ad campaign, entitled This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me, that recently launched in Scotland. The campaign features postcards and posters depicting women and men in various states of intimacy, women drinking at a part together, scantily clad women, and so on – each poster, along with the picture, bears only the words: "This is not an Invitation to Rape Me .co .uk"
The website referenced by the posters goes into more detail in dispelling rape myths like, "Myth: a woman raped after consenting to any level of sexual activity is to blame for giving mixed signals" and "Myth: a woman raped whilst wearing revealing clothing is to blame for leading a man on."
This campaign has been questioned, by Sociological Images and other sources, on its effectiveness. Critics wonder if the lack of text on the posters themselves is a good idea, as many people might not take the incentive to look up the website later on. In addition there has been some questioning as to whether or not the campaign is too obvious – after all most people know that rape is wrong regardless of what the victim was wearing/doing/saying prior to the assault.
I, for one, think this campaign is right on track.
One of the biggest problems we face as a global society today, in terms of rape, is victim blaming. Victim blaming is common enough that it happens on TV, in movies, in newspapers, in conversation. Victim blaming is harmful – it creates serious guilt in the minds of many rape victims, who are forced to wonder if they were really raped
or beat themselves up over what they should have done
… when they deserve to be supported so they can heal.
Perhaps most horrifying – victim blaming lets rapists get away with rape. Huge amounts of rapists are repeat offenders, and a large majority of rapists go free –without even a day of jail time – largely because of the way we are trained by society to look towards the victim, to figure out what they did wrong, rather than to simply judge the rapist for violating human beings autonomy.
While it is true that this ad campaign may not deter any rapists from committing rape, it is doing something very important by very clearly, placing the blame for rape on the rapists, rather than their victims. By saying x, y, and z are not invitations to rape this campaign puts the idea out there that there is NO excuse for rape. Period. This is a vital message.
How often have we heard people say a rape victim was “asking for it” or “should have known better?” Too many instances – like Bill O’Reilly’s awful statements about Jennifer Moore, for example- jump into my mind almost instantly. I shouldn’t be able to think of any and neither should you.
In my opinion anything that places the blame where it belongs is a positive campaign, period. Until victim blaming is a thing of the past ad campaigns like this one in Scotland serve a vital purpose – they can change the social consciousness, lift guilt off the shoulders of rape survivors, and cast much needed scorn onto the perpetrators of rape. Not bad for such a simplistic campaign.