Rape counsellors: Diageo-funded advert targets victims of sexual abuse

The advertisement at the centre of controversy.

The Diageo-funded campaign against alcohol abuse is to continue using its latest advertisement despite criticism from rape counsellors that it targets victims of sex crimes.

A war of words has erupted over the advertisement, condemned by the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland as “sinister, harmful, regressive, and hurtful”.

The Stop Out of Control Drinking campaign said the advertisement had been “wildly misunderstood and misinterpreted”, and called the RCNI’s criticism “entirely unworthy”.

Throughout yesterday, the campaign was unclear if the advertisement would be pulled. Last night, its chairman, Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay, said he stood over it “completely”.

“I am sure we will run it again. I hope we will run it again,” Mr Finlay said. “It was intended to be provocative. The ads are intended to start a discussion.

“We are not going to change a culture that we are afraid to confront. We are not going to run a campaign that is safe and bland.”

Mr Finlay insisted that the RCNI had misinterpreted the scene depicted in the ad and hit out at the network’s director, Cliona Saidlear, for going on the offensive.

“If the shoe were on the other foot I would have rung her. I know her very well. I would not have issued a statement attacking her without ringing her.”

The advertisement features a young woman, possibly a teenager, in a low-cut mini-dress, sitting on the edge of her bed in a dishevelled, distressed state while a figure looks on from the door, all under the slogan: “Who’s following in your footsteps? Out of control drinking has consequences.”

Ms Saidlear said: “The sinister inference is that the young girl has been attacked on her way home.

“The belief that drunk girls are ‘asking for it’ is one that needs to be strongly challenged. This is a harmful, regressive, and hurtful message which targets the vulnerable.”

Mr Finlay said the scene was of a woman caught by her young sister looking the worse for wear after a night out. He said the image would be tweaked to make it clearer that the figure at the door was a child.

“One element of what we need to do is try to persuade people that their behaviour influences others. People are very heavily influenced by their peers, their siblings, and their parents,” he said.

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