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Missoula’s Intervention in Action Project, a group of community organizations that aims to educate and prevent sexual violence, has unveiled a new initiative called Make Your Move Missoula, urging citizens to speak up and intervene in incidents of sexual violence. Make Your Move has created a series of six posters aiming to increase awareness of sexual assault by re-purposing typical rape justification into messages of prevention.

I really want to like this campaign. It’s extremely well-intentioned, and flipping rape-apologists’ catch phrases on their heads like this is clever and arresting. But, my name is Julia and, as usual, I’m here to ruin your fun.

The posters are ominously lit, and the models have concerned, disapproving expressions. They couldn’t find some tasteful damn wallpaper to pose in front of? Why are they in the ugliest haunted house of all time? More importantly, these posters shift the responsibility to bystanders instead of laying the blame squarely on the aggressors. Obviously it’s important for bystanders to speak up, but what about addressing the actual violent behavior? These posters fall way short and ultimately miss the point.

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Okay. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but maybe a better option would be to encourage bystanders to ask the woman in question if she’s uncomfortable, instead of treating her like a piece of furniture. The “treat a lady thing” is aggravating for a lot of reasons (not the least of which is the fact that men are also victims of sexual violence), and surprisingly tone deaf for a campaign that aims to empower victims.

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This poster is intense, because obviously this is the type of man who might rape you. He has tattoos and facial hair, so it’s especially cutting to see him advocating so powerfully for victims of sexual violence. Right? Wrong. And again, the copy here suggests ignoring—further marginalizing—the woman.

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“Some dude was hanging all over her, so we took off…and got her to leave with us. She was drunk and we didn’t trust him. “
“He was acting all sweet, offering her a ride…but it just didn’t feel right. So my friends and I stepped in and got her out of the bar.”

The two (of six) posters that feature female models (inexplicably in “tough girl” poses) both touch on the concept of following your instincts when gauging personal safety, which is important and I’m glad was mentioned. Like in the previous two posters, neither make any reference to asking the woman about her comfort level.

The most problematic aspect of the campaign is the fact that these posters all depict someone, male or female, coming in to save a female in distress. It feels incredibly disempowering which seems to work directly against the point of the project. It’s a disappointing interpretation of helping, to say the least.

Missoula’s Intervention in Action Project is doing good work and these posters are a commendable effort. However, even with the dramatic lighting, in-your-face expressions, and edgy font choices, the campaign ultimately looks at sexual assault from a distance. How about instead of dancing around the issue, the posters said something like “It’s Not Okay To Touch Someone Without His Or Her Consent,” or “Unless You Explicitly Ask For It, You’re Not Asking For It?” But you know, snappier.

Photos: Make Your Move Missoula // H/T Jezebel