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!”
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.