Rape Crisis Network slams 'rape victim blaming' ads

The agency behind a campaign against out-of-control drinking has been criticised for its most recent advertisement.

The advertisement - carried in today’s Irish Independent - features a photo of a young woman who has returned home from a night out, clearly upset, while another female stands at her bedroom door in the background.

The tag line on the ad reads: "Who’s following in your footsteps: Out-of-control-drinking has consequences."

Clíona Saidléar, Director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI), said: "The sinister inference is that the young girl has been attacked on her way home. The message is it's her fault for being drunk and what is more it is also her mother's fault for her own drinking habits."

The rolemodels.ie campaign - which is supported by Diageo, Barnardos and DCU, among others - has defended its advert saying it has "been wildly misunderstood and misinterpreted by the Director of the Rape Crisis Network".

It is chaired by Barnardos' CEO Fergus Finlay and its board members include Aine Lynch, who is CEO of the National Parents Council, Diageo's director for Ireland, David Smith, and Kieran Mulvey, the CEO of the Labour Relations Commission.

The campaign was set up to "break the cycle of passing a cultural acceptance of excessive drinking from one generation to the next".

Ms Saidléar has called for the immediate removal of the advert which, she says, "blames victims of sexual violence for the crimes that have been committed against them".

She said: "The belief that drunk girls are ‘asking for it’ is one that needs to be strongly challenged as it is one that we know perpetrators use to select and target their victims knowing this cultural attitude will mean they get away with it. Disappointingly, the out-of-control campaign instead of challenging it has reinforced it here.

"Not only is the survivor blamed, the survivors’ mother is also in the frame. The perpetrator is not in this picture. This is a harmful, regressive and hurtful message which targets the vulnerable. Survivors of sexual violence should never be used in this manner.

"This latest ad builds on the shaming of women theme that can be seen in much drink related campaigning. The out-of-control campaign which started by asking women if they were ‘embarrassed’ while they were being photographed without their consent in a potentially compromising position, has now progressed to blaming victims of rape for their own rape.

"This is utterly unacceptable and RCNI demand that Diageo remove these offending advertisements immediately. We ask all papers and commercial platforms carrying this ad to take it down and refuse to run such dangerous cultural messages of rape victim blaming."

Rolemodels.ie said the ad is part of a series of ads that are designed to get a discussion going in Ireland about the consequences of out-of-control drinking, including "the consequences for children, for siblings, and for our ourselves".

They said: "The ads are designed to say, amongst other things, that our behaviour influences those around us. The ad in today’s Independent depicts an older sister who has returned home after a night of clearly excessive drinking, who is being watched by her younger sister.

This image may be provocative, and is intended to be. It has however been wildly misunderstood and misinterpreted by the Director of the Rape Crisis Network, who has made a series of completely inaccurate claims about the content of the ad.

"Nobody associated with this campaign would tolerate for a minute the inference that victims of sexual assault are ever to blame. Many of us have worked with the victims of abuse and assault over many years, and would never allow any untrue inference of that kind. It is an entirely unworthy assertion, based on a misinterpretation."

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