Laura is impressed by a new police anti-rape campaign

 A new anti-rape campaign was launched by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland last week, and I’m very pleased to say that the people behind it seem a lot more clued up than West Mercia Police. The campaign is called “We Can Stop It” and aims to avoid victim blaming, focusing instead on challenging rape myths and promoting “a sense of responsibility” among men. It is also designed to highlight changes to Scottish law, where there is now an increased focus on the importance of consent:

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 reformed previous legislation for sexual offences and created a range of new offences relating to sex without consent. Crimes that previously haven’t been focused on, such as sex when a victim is asleep or unconscious, sex without consent through inebriation, and male rape all fall under this.

The posters for the campaign feature a series of young men aged 18-27 alongside the statements:

  • I know when she’s asleep it’s a no. Do you?
  • I listen when a guy says no. Do you?
  • I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t pressure his girlfriend to have sex. Are you?
  • I listen when a girl says no. Do you?
  • I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t have sex with a girl when she’s too drunk. Are you?

This focus on male attitudes continues with the really rather excellent “What can you do to help stop rape” section of the campaign website. It contains the kind of rape prevention advice feminists have been repeating for years in the face of the usual victim-blaming messages, including:

Take responsibility: Find out about the law regarding rape and understand that no matter what the circumstances are, sex without consent is rape. If there is any doubt about whether the person you’re with is consenting, don’t have sex.

Respect your sexual partner: Listen to the other person and treat them with respect – effective communication is key to healthy sexual relationships. It’s important to talk to your partner and listen to their wishes. Any kind of sexual act must be consensual – both partners should agree to it and be happy with it.

Question your own attitudes: Consider the messages you hear about how men should act and think about your own actions, attitudes and behaviours. Understand that behaviour, such as pub chat about a woman ‘asking for it’ because of what she is wearing, can perpetuate harmful attitudes towards sexism and sexual violence.

The website also contains statistics that give lie to the myth that rape means “a violent assault by a stranger in a dark alley”, stories from men who support the campaign and the legal definition of consent.

I think there could be a bit more focus on the difference between active, enthusiastic consent and the popular view of consent as the absence of a “no”, but for a police campaign this really is very welcome breath of fresh air. Changing both the public’s and the police’s attitudes to rape and rape victims is essential if we are to see more rapists behind bars where they belong.

The campaign is supported by Rape Crisis Scotland, whose helpline number is 08088 01 03 02 (6pm to midnight every day).