Sussex Police criticised for “Look after your mates” poster

Sussex Police Poster
Poster and photo by Sussex Police

Sussex Police have been getting it in the neck from the group Rape Crisis over the last day or two for putting up a safety poster encouraging girls not to abandon their mates on a night out. The argument is that the poster “targets” victims rather than perpetrators. The poster was created after much research and seems to me to be an entirely sensible message to send to young women (and probably to young men in some city centres…).

A moment’s thought will lead you to the conclusion that a poster saying “Please do not assault or rape anyone!” is unlikely to deter a potential attacker who has not already been put off by the possibility of a lengthy jail term, becoming a social pariah, and being put on the sex offenders register for life!

Of course women should be able to wear what they like without fear of being assaulted. So should men, for that matter: I wonder what my chances of survival would be, if, as a man, I exercised my legal and moral right to walk alone wearing a mini-skirt and a skimpy top in my local city centre at 11.00 p.m. on a Saturday night! I suggest that I would be lucky if I didn’t have to be removed by ambulance. I further suggest that anyone hearing of my plight would say something along the lines of “What a shame, but what a silly thing to do!”

Left ipad
Would it be there when I got back?

The fact of the matter is that bad things happen. The people who choose to do these bad things will not be deterred by polite notices. I often have a coffee and use my iPad when I go shopping with my wife. When I resume the trudging around the shops, I would be perfectly within my legal and moral rights to leave my iPad by the table with a polite notice on it saying “Back at 2.00 p.m. Please leave” Of course, the chances of it being there on my return would be vanishingly small! What would have been more useful to me: a poster on the wall saying “Thieves, please don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you” or a poster saying “Thieves in the area. Don’t leave your property unattended”. I hope that everyone agrees that the poster aimed at the thief would not serve a great deal of purpose: the one aimed at me may well have made me think twice. I can’t control the actions of the potential thief, but I can minimise the risk of becoming a victim.

Surely by analogy to this example, the Sussex Police are completely right to point out to young women the steps to take to minimise the risk to themselves or their friends. This poster in no way puts the blame on the victims: the girls are not behaving irresponsibly and are not provocatively dressed. Of course society has to take every step it can to make the streets safe for both women and men, but to try to force the police to take down this sensible poster is a case of putting ideology ahead of plain common sense.

  • Thanks for your comments, and for your kind remarks about the blog. I am sorry to hear about your bad experience.

    One of the strange things about the way that “equality”, in terms of dress has developed over the years, is that while it is generally acceptable today for a woman to dress in a way traditionally reserved for men (ie trousers, man-style shirts etc), it has never become acceptable at all for a man to dress in traditional women’s clothes. You only have to watch the TV programme “The Boy who Wore a Dress” or read the true story about the 5 year old banned from a playgroup for wearing dresses ( http://bit.ly/1bQJ0Gw ) to see what I mean. You may not agree, but I think a woman generally has to dress consistently in a very masculine way for it to be considered anything other than toying with fashion, but a man only has to wear something slightly feminine to be considered “weird” or “perverted”

    I had a lot of sympathy (and admiration) for the schoolboys who turned up at school in skirts one hot summer simply because they weren’t allowed to wear shorts. They were neither transvestite nor trans-gender, nor am I, but they did want just a little bit of equal treatment. I can go on for ages about the iniquity of unequal dress codes and expectations, but I have all that on other posts! I hope you don’t have any more experiences of that sort.

  • Katie

    Ps. I wouldn’t expect much support from feminists as many of them hate trans women too.

  • Katie

    “I wonder what my chances of survival would be, if, as a man, I exercised my legal and moral right to walk alone wearing a mini-skirt and a skimpy top in my local city centre at 11.00 p.m. on a Saturday night! I suggest that I would be lucky if I didn’t have to be removed by ambulance. I further suggest that anyone hearing of my plight would say something along the lines of “What a shame, but what a silly thing to do!”
    I would guess that the above would be viewed as a transphobic attack – whether you identified as trans or not, Steve. I’m trans, and I was almost attacked once, by a group of around fifteen people but not at 11.00pm on a Saturday but at 8.00pm on a Monday evening on my way home from evening class when I got off the bus nearby where I live – and that was when I was wearing trousers. Fortunately, as I’m young and reasonably fit and was wearing flat shoes that night I was able to run to my house and get indoors before the group were able to catch me. I was still really shaken though. When I called the police they came and took a statement but the main concern was the damage to property that they’d done when they ripped off people wing mirrors from their cars. Eventually, when they did see me they were sympathetic but just advised me to take a taxi to my house in future. One thing I learned that night was that since Britain is a capitalist society, then people – or at least working class people – are far less important than property. You have a really interesting blog here, Steve. It’s important to remember that sexism can affect men too.