• Thu, Dec 8 2011

Creepy Alcohol PSA Blames Victims (And Their Friends!) For Sexual Assault

A new PSA from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has come under fire in the past couple of days for seeming to blame not only rape victims, but the friends of rape victims, for crimes committed by rapists. Are you offended by it?

I am, and here’s why. First of all, it shows a shapely pair of legs on a bathroom floor with underwear around the (faceless) person’s ankles. I’m not sure you could come up with a more stereotypically rapey (but still kinda sexy!) image if you tried. Even if they weren’t trying to sexualize rape, why the fuck would we want to see that? It seems pretty irresponsible to put such a potentially triggering image out into the world.

The text reads:

She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no.

When your friends drink, they can end up making bad decisions, like going home with someone they don’t know very well.

Decisions like that leave them vulnerable to dangers like date rape. Help your friends stay in control and stay safe.

You know what’s a worse decision than going home with a handsome stranger? Raping somebody. Saying “drinking leads girls to make bad decisions that lead to their victimization” is putting the onus on the victim to keep the rapist from raping them, when in fact, it’s the rapist’s responsibility to make better decisions. “She was drunk” has been used as a successful way to “discredit” the victim in too many rape trials to count, and that’s partly because people still think it’s solely a woman’s responsibility to guard against sexual assault. (I realize men get raped too, but I’m using “woman” here for the sake of grammatical convenience.)

And as for the victim’s friends, it’s true that being drunk can sap your ability to stop a crime from being committed. But is this a good enough reason to stop getting drunk? Following this logic, none of us should ever get drunk because we might happen upon an in-progress robbery or car jacking lacking the necessary coordination to stop it, hence making it kind of our fault. Wait, what? Exactly.

Drinking too much is certainly terrible for you, and that’s a good enough reason to get most women to pay attention without having to threaten them with rape. I realize that alcohol is a risk factor in rape, as it is in robbery, getting run down by a car, or any other crime that requires physical evasion. But is that a compelling or fair reason to have to completely change one’s habits? That’s up to each individual, of course. Some people never leave their houses for fear of being messed with, while others live their lives exactly how they want to without fear. Personally, I would like to see more ads focusing on the importance of enthusiastic consent, as well as this little nugget that’s buried deep within the Control Tonight website:

Tip #3: Make sure your friend knows that “NO” means “NO”.

Just because someone is drinking and seems less inhibited doesn’t mean that “No” means “Yes” or “Maybe”. Be aware that taking advantage of someone who is under the influence can still be considered rape under the law.

(Via Feministing)

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  • Lizzie

    Why would they put white text on a white background?? Maybe it’s a good thing that it’s illegible, though, for the reasons that the article points out

  • MM

    “But she couldn’t say no?” Creepy as fuck. I prefer this message:
    http://static-l3.blogcritics.org/10/11/27/149161/SAVE-campaign-Don't-Be-That-Guy-couch-saying-no—Copy.jpg

    • Daisy

      That one is really on the nose, I like that one better.

  • Nancy

    As I was reading through this I became very sad because I actually disagreed with you, and I didn’t want to because you are my favorite writer on here! But then I got to the end and you made great suggestions and I thought “Way to go Jamie! You never let me down!”

    Sadly, I still disagree a littttle. I think it is horrible that when rape cases go to trial, the girl’s clothes or drunken state make a difference. I don’t think anyone who gets raped should be blamed! And I think they should absolutely have more PSAs like the one MM referred to. But I don’t think this PSA is bad. It looks to me like it’s just trying to remind some girls to be aware that this could happen, and to help keep their friends safe. I’ve been to many a party where a girl can barely walk and some guy tries to get her to leave with him, and yeah, if you’re lucid enough, you should say “Hey friend, you’re too drunk to go home with him, let me bring you home, ok?” Sometimes that reminder can make a difference, too.

  • Lisa

    I work at a college campus and recently overheard guys practically planning out date rapes, so at the moment I think that girls should be warned.

  • Fabel

    I agree, these are definitely addressing the wrong people. Women already get messages like this all the time & so this just adds to the mistaken idea that rape is partly the victim’s fault. Aside from that, I mean…friends do tend to look out for each other more often than not, so PSAs about it don’t even seem really necessary. I like the point you made here: “…it’s true that being drunk can sap your ability to stop a crime from being committed. But is this a good enough reason to stop getting drunk? Following this logic, none of us should ever get drunk because we might happen upon an in-progress robbery or car jacking lacking the necessary coordination to stop it, hence making it kind of our fault.”

    I think the PSA MM linked to is a much better one. It’s addressing the potential rapist, plus the image isn’t confusingly porn-y.