Sussex Police has apologised for issuing rape prevention posters which critics said ‘blamed’ the victims of rape for being assaulted.
The force has withdrawn the poster (pictured) from its summer campaign to prevent rape and sexual offences in clubs and bars.
More than 800 people signed an online petition calling for their removal after police announced the launch of its campaign on Tuesday (April 7).
The poster, below the image of the young women, stated: “Which one of your mates is most vulnerable on a night?
“The one you leave behind.
“Many sexual assaults could be prevented.
“Stick together and don’t let your friend leave with a stranger or go off on their own.”
The petition, which was posted on change.org, stated: “The issue is that this poster targets women who are most likely to be victims and puts the responsibility on them to prevent their own and their friends’ attacks.
“We forget that the people who have the most power to prevent rape and sexual assault from happening are not friends or bystanders but rather the perpetrators of the crime – the rapists.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Furnell, Head of Public Protection, said: “The way we have gone about this campaign has caused some concern.
“This was not the intention of our message and for that I apologise.
“We have listened to our partners and we have reached the decision to foreshorten this particular part of the campaign.
“The posters were not intended in any way to blame victims. I understand the concerns that have been raised about the poster and they will be withdrawn.
“I would like to stress that the posters were well intentioned with the sole aim of preventing people becoming victims of crime.
“Sussex Police is determined to continue to raise awareness of this issue and, with the support of partners, target those who seek to exploit and abuse vulnerable people.
“Together we are committed to tackling all violence against women, girls, men and boys and will continue a campaign that will focus on rape and sexual offences that will deal with consent, perpetrators, prevention, awareness, education and vulnerability.”
James Rowlands, Strategic Commissioner for Domestic and Sexual Violence for Brighton & Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council said: “I welcome Sussex Police’s decision to withdraw this poster, in recognition of the feedback they have received.
“I look forward to working with them in the future as we, and our partners in Sussex, have a shared commitment to supporting victims, raising awareness about consent and most importantly holding to account those who commit rape or sexual assault.”