It's the holiday season, which means it's time to light the menorah tree on fire, throw dreidels at the Kwanzaa cake, and very nicely ask Santa to bring you a nice new Jesus for Saturnalia. If you're in the UK, it means something else, too: the annual deluge of unhelpful holiday anti-rape ads.
According to research, binge drinking in the UK tends to spike around the holidays, so it makes sense that well-meaning police forces would unveil anti-rape ads around the end of the year in an attempt to combat the pervasiveness of alcohol-related sexual assault. But when it comes to advice about rape, well-meaning and well-executed rarely align. This year's crop isn't as bad as some of the ads in the past, but according to the The Vagenda Magazine, that doesn't mean there aren't some awful ones out there. Let's take a little walk down very recent memory lane.
Here's one ad created this year for Northern Ireland's SMART program. It's pink because it's FOR THE LADIES.
LADIES: HOW MUCH RAPE JUICE HAVE YOU BEEN DRINKING?
The SMART program also has a brochure for men that implores them to make sure to ask ARE YOU SURE before having sex, but that doesn't erase the fact that the campaign assumes that 1. only women are rape victims 2. only men are rapists 3. rape victims who drink too much are at least a teeny bit responsible for what happens to them and 4. a bunch of other problems that I'm too exhausted to go into here. No bueno.
Not sure what this one, from the Hampshire Police last year, was trying to accomplish.
Uh, thanks for the rape, mom? Adults need to be responsible for their kids, but: gross.
And the Hertfordshire police have made moves to improve this dismal offering:
To this year's campaign, which declares in bold letters that NOBODY ASKS TO BE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED OR RAPED alongside pictures of people in various states of dress and revelry, is a marked improvement.
This one, from Wales in 2011, straight up instructs women to "not be a victim," which is a kind of ridiculous order to give, considering that victims are victims by virtue of the fact that they're having a thing done to them that they don't want done to them.
And anything's better than this cutesy Christmas song with lyrics tweaked to be about rape instead of partridges in pear trees offered by West Yorkshire in a recent year past.
At least West Yorkshire's getting better. Just yesterday, they announced a new initiative to encourage victims of rape and sexual assault to come forward, releasing a statement that read, in part,
"Sadly society at times has negative perceptions about sexual offending and these perceptions allow sexual crime to go unreported and offenders to go unpunished, we need to change those perceptions by providing people with information that enables them to understand better the nature of the problem and what it is that constitutes rape or other sexual violence.
"And that is why my commitment is to the victims of this dreadful crime that, if they come forward and tell us what has happened, we will not only do all we can to bring the offender to justice but also with our partners provide support and counsel to help them through what is a very difficult and distressing time.
But bad anti-rape PSA's aren't confined to our across-the-pond neighbors. Who could forget this Pennsylvania Liquor Control Commission stab at the well-worn Don't Get Raped! trope by implying that if you drink, your friends will get raped and it will sort of be your fault,
Fortunately, all anti-rape PSA's aren't created equally shitty. Here's Bristol's campaign, launched last month, which does a great job shifting responsibility from victims being too victimize-able to perpetrators being, uh, rapists.
And here's one from Canada's great Don't Be That Guy campaign,
Hey, great! Congrats, rape ads, on not being awful!
Unfortunately, for every Don't Be That Guy and Scary Scottish Rugby Guy PSA, there's a "Women: Stop Doing Stuff" ad. And even in 2013 and that advice, for the eleven jahundredth consecutive year, has failed to eliminate rape, people are still harping on it. 12 faces a'palmin.