Lancashire Police Rape Campaign targets perpetators, not victims

// 28 July 2009

Lancashire Constabulary have begun a campaign to try to reduce instances of rape, called Operation Focus.

This includes short DVD which will be played in town centres on large screens as well as posters and bluetooth messages, and a radio campaign.

It appears from the website that they are targeting men and women equally. There is a short video aimed at men which you can see on the website (warning: may be triggering).

It shows a young man reflecting sadly on the evening. In flashbacks it shows him drinking in a night club, dancing with a girl, they then go out into the alleyway and kiss. The man starts to take it further and she screams “No, no, stop it, get off me.” But he doesn’t stop. The video ends with the words “No consent, no sex”. It then shows the man in prison.

There is a video aimed at women, featuring the same woman. It shows exactly the same sequence of events.

I watched this, totally expecting it to end with one of those usual victim-blaming messages about women not drinking too much and not making yourself vulnerable that are usually put about, like this one which slemslempike describes as “victim-blaming shit”.

But I was shocked. It just ends with the words: “Support is available” and a telephone number.


I like the fact that there is a video aimed at men in this campaign. After all, only rapists can prevent rape. I also like the fact that these videos don’t seem to be blaming women for having a drink.

But I wonder, will this message get lost?

For example, check out this local paper’s approach to the story:

DVDs warning young women about their alcohol intake will be shown in Preston nightclubs in a bid to reduce the risk of being raped.

It’s only right at the bottom of the article where we find out that men are also being targeted, and it’s almost mentioned in passing.

Even the Police Oracle website prioritises the anti-drink messages for women as they discuss the campaign:

Late night bars and clubs across Lancaster, Morecambe and Wyre will also be helping to deliver the message of Lancashire Police’s county-wide Operation Focus campaign. Staff at the venues are being briefed about the initiative, which is aimed at highlighting the potential dangers of excessive alcohol in a bid to reduce the chances of people becoming victims of sexual assaults.

Later in the article there’s a reference to “the effect that alcohol can have on their decision making ability – an effect that can have life changing consequences.”

It’s not clear enough if this is referring to men or women’s decision making ability. Is this a veiled reference to young men who rape after drinking? If it is, it’s not clear enough.

It’s hard to tell for sure without seeing the posters or hearing the radio ads.

But this does seem like a good campaign, actually targeting the potential perpetrators, and supporting the victims.

Is this the kind of campaign we’d like to see more of?

Comments From You

Rachael // Posted 28 July 2009 at 1:41 pm

Why isn’t this campaign country-wide? Why do we still hear and see the usual victim-blaming crap in most campaigns?

These videos are excellent! The very first I have seen where the rape is not titillating and where, for once, the man is being blamed for rape. About time.

I will warn any previous rape vctims (of which I am one) out there though. It is definately a bit disburbing to watch.

However, this is only because this is how rape happens in most circumstances – it is very realisitc – and you see the horror and shock on the vctim’s face as it happens (rather than some pathetic attempt to sexualize the event).

I commend the Lancashire Police Force for a true depiction of rape. The only unrealistic part, I would say…is that the man ends up in prison for his crime. When you look at the stats…this is not realistic, unfortunately.

However, seeing him in prison will hopefully warn off some potential rapists.

Anna // Posted 28 July 2009 at 2:53 pm

“Is this the kind of campaign we’d like to see more of?”

Yes. Absolutely.

I haven’t seen the video, I’m afraid, so thank you for your description of the content and approach.

Like Rachael says, this kind of campaign should be country-wide. Victim-blaming campaigns just contribute to an environment where rapists feel they can excuse their actions or get away with this crime and they discourage those raped from seeking support.

Redheadinred // Posted 28 July 2009 at 4:55 pm

What a fantastic campaign! Although I do have just one issue with the ones which target perpetrators, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. The fact that they focus on the rapist is fantastic, but they always end by saying ‘you’ll end up in prison with a long sentence’. Well, no, usually a rapist gets off scot-free. Even if he does go to prison it’s for, like, ten months. Sure, anything which prevents men from raping is good, but to say that it’s likely he’ll end up in prison is just not true, and a lot of men who have raped before know they can get away with it. Maybe there also ought to be a message that you should consider the woman’s feelings, and you have no right to do that to her, rather than just playing on his fear of jail.

Mark // Posted 28 July 2009 at 6:16 pm

“Why isn’t this campaign country-wide? ”

Like with most things. You need to test something’s effectiveness. No point in spending millions if it doesn’t work. For example, there’s no point in telling children not to stand on railway lines until you’ve adequately proven that trains will kill them, is there?

Annika // Posted 28 July 2009 at 9:01 pm

Was just wondering whether or not it might be a good idea to take matters into or own hands and do some kind of Twitter campaign? Raise awarenss that way?

Any thoughts? x

Jennifer Drew // Posted 29 July 2009 at 12:22 am

No this campaign is not effective because it implies that consuming alcohol can lead to a man raping a woman. Alcohol is not responsible for men raping women it is men’s beliefs that they are entitled to unlimited sexual access to a woman and she, not the man is supposed to ‘gatekeep’ his sexual desires or pseudo rights of sexual entitlement.

A far better campaign is the Scottish Rape Crisis one – This Is Not An Invitation to Rape me. A number of scenarios are displayed, including the myth that a woman’s clothing supposedly causes a man to commit rape!

Most rapes are not stranger ones neither are they ones wherein a man rapes a woman after she has consumed alcohol. Men who commit rape seize opportunities and this includes targetting women they know and who have consumed alcohol, because they know society will blame the woman for drinking alcohol. But as I said, alcohol itself does not cause rape – men commit rape and it is men who are responsible for preventing rape.

But campaigns alone will not increase the rape conviction rate because society still refuses to accept men as a group must be held accountable and responsible for their sexual behaviour and actions.

What does ‘consent mean precisely?’ Is it consent if a man uses coercion or wears down a woman’s resistance? Is it consent if a woman believes she cannot say no to the man and know her sexual autonomy will be accepted and respected?

Consumption of alcohol makes it much easier for the male rapist to subdue his female victim but this does not mean the maler rapist is not accountable for his actions. Men freely choose whether or not to rape.

Should we hold male victims of male on male physical assault responsible for supposedly not taking greater precautions in respect of their safety? Is the male victim of a male physical assault partially responsible because he did not attempt to prevent his assault?

Yet our society believes women are supposedly responsible for ensuring they do not drink too much – rather than holding male rapists responsible for raping a woman.

This police force needs to rethink its campaign because it is feeding into dominant myths concerning women-blaming.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 29 July 2009 at 9:50 am

Hi Jennifer

As I explained, the videos actually show people drinking but don’t seem to highlight this as part of the problem – the male rapist is clearly shown to be at fault. The video, at least, does not suggest that the woman did anything at all wrong.

If anything, I think that the campaign suggests that men who drink need to be extra careful unless they do something that that they would not do whilst sober (i.e. rape).

So, I don’t think that this campaign blames women because they drink too much as you suggest – in fact the opposite, which is why I highlighted it.

The video does ‘hold male rapists to account’ as you suggest they should do.

Perhaps you’re aware of more details of the supporting material than I am?


I have no idea what the last part of your comment means.

Sam // Posted 29 July 2009 at 4:57 pm

I like this campaign, because it’s not vague about the “no”. No academic dissertation about the nature of the possibility of consent, but a clearly voiced no-misunderstanding/no-overhearing/no-buthereyessaidyes-possible-no. No. Just no. Good.

Survivor // Posted 30 July 2009 at 2:22 pm

My sympathies to Rachael – my heart goes out to you whatever form your attack took. I too am a rape victim – both aggravated stranger rape with attempted murder whilst walking home mid-evening stone cold sober and rape in the supposed safety of own bed by my ex-husband. No convictions resulted for either offence. It has taken me years to recover. Indeed, it was my vulnerability after the stranger attack that led me to a dominant and ultimately violent and sexually violent husband.

I like the concept behind the clips and I do think they are thought-provoking, but I am worried (and maybe this is my victim mentality coming out – but I’m entitled to that perspective) that some men seeing this will argue that it is a grey area of a man maybe erring a little (but supposedly not criminally) when a woman has given him the come on. I do not think it is a sober enough message. The slightly dreamy, sentimental sound track doesn’t help – in fact I think that’s probably the weakest point of the clip and if the police could consider changing that then they could change the whole mood of the piece for the better.

I would like to say that I found the police’s attitude towards me pretty good and constructive and I bet Lancashire police would be receptive if someone could direct them to this blog.

Where the police/any agency falls short is in providing the support afterwards. Victim support for me was practically non-existant and rather inane when it did happen. I have spent thousands of my own money on therapy.

I also think the clip perpetuate the idea that most rapes happen in pub car parks after both perpetrator and victim (of a similar age) have been having a drink together. I do not believe this to be true. It presents a less ugly side of rapists too. Some rapists go equipped and plan their offence, stalking and targeting. There was nothing of this in the clips. So it’s a good message, but it’s a limited one. Steps in the right direction are better than the police not taking the journey at all, so I am glad it’s been done. But there should be clips to show rape with violence, stranger rapes and rapes by people of varying ages.

Whilst it’s great to take a step away from victim blaming, true victim support is a long way off and doesn’t stop with retribution and a guy behind bars – even if that really happened in real life.

polly styrene // Posted 30 July 2009 at 10:45 pm

It’s good to see the police have finally got out of their “rape is caused by women doing mad things like drinking and walking the streets after dark” rut.

But I think that the problem is still surely that most rapists know they WILL get away with it – particularly partner/acquaintance rapists, who are the most common perpetrators – I can’t imagine rapists will see this and think, “well I was going to commit rape, but I won’t now, I might get caught”.

Survivor // Posted 31 July 2009 at 2:57 pm


You’re absolutely right. There is not enough of a deterrant message. Most men get away with it. The Drink Driving campaigns seem to me to be successful because the impact of a drink driving conviction can include fines, imprisonment, increased insurance premiums, loss of licence, loss of livelihood etc. What is a man really risking if he rapes his partner? Maybe divorce. The thing that makes me feel better sometimes is that unalthough unconvicted there is a police intelligence report hanging over my ex husband’s head. The police should have the discretion to put that on a CRB check so that someone the police have reasonable suspicion of having committed rape can’t get a clean CRB check (hopefully). That means he can’t take some public or voluntary offices or work with children or vulnerable adults (assuming people make the proper checks). Have a film that has a guy being told no, he can’t be a football coach/youth worker etc. and if he wants to have the police intelligence report changed, the onus is on him. I know the folks at Liberty would hate that but what about my liberty which was so curtailed and violated? if a man is not convicted, it doesn’t make the woman a liar. Where is the half-way house when the evidence is just not compelling enough for criminal conviction? It would be an even stronger message for the police to say to women “We believe you”. I feel better every time someone has faith in my report and feel worse every time someone casts doubt on it. It would help me enormously therapeutically if the police were to issue a message that rape victims are believed. (Obviously that statistically tiny percentage of women who do allege rape where it can be proven to a criminal degree of beyond reasonable doubt not to have taken place deserve to face justice). Lancashire police: have an alternative message of “We believe you”.

CMK // Posted 31 July 2009 at 7:21 pm

I agree with many of the above comments.

I do wonder if the local newspapers approach was due to the simple fact that a potential victim is more likely to take action to avoid their being raped than a rapist is to consider their actions?

Jovet // Posted 9 August 2009 at 6:40 pm

As a woman who had been mollested as a child and who was raped, I feel I have the creds to weigh in here.

One of the issues I have with these sort of campaigns is that they don’t seem to find a middle ground. No, it is never a woman’s fault if she is raped. Unfortunatly, we life in a world where it happens, and it doesn’t look like it is going away any time soon. Part of the problem, in my eyes, in putting all of the responsibility on a man is that we are telling women that they are less then men, they have less personal responsibility to their lives, they cannot control their lives and they are automatically victims. Yes, women are raped by strangers, there is sometimes nothing they can do about it. This is not the majority of rapes, however. The majority are rapes by someone the victim knows, or are victims of oppertunity. There are many degrees of rape, and while they are all detrimental to the psyche, some, unfortunatly, live in that hazy area of he said-she said, and don’t try and tell me there has never been a woman whi lied and cried rape. I’ve seen it firsthand. Prosecuting these types of rape are so very difficult, which is why so few of these men are actualy in jail (as they should be, aside from being castrated IMHO). This is why the courts have an issue with prosecuting.

While at this point in our world, all rapes cannot be prevented, some can.

As a woman, I will not let anyone tell me I am a victim or make me a victim. I understand that the world I live in is not as nice as it should be, and in order to protect myself, I must be vigilent. A woman wandering down a deserted street at 3 am, wearing an ultra-mini and a tube top, drunk off her ass and yelling “Oh my god, I’m so drunk” at the top of her lungs (Yes, I have witnessed this exact situation, before herding her off to somewhere safe) doesn’t deserve to be raped, but why would she be surprised if she is? A woman who goes to a party and accepts drinks from people she doesn’t know and doesn’t have friends with her to keep an eye on her doesn’t deserve to get raped, but shouldn’t be surprised if it does happen. I don’t walk around a bad part of town waving hundred-dollar bills. I could and have every right to, but if I’m mugged, I’m not going to be surprised. If I choose to drive around without a seat belt, and a drunk driver hits my car and paralizes me, of course the drunk driver is entirely to blame. I would still have to face up to the fact that I allowed the situation to get that bad by not being personally careful.

By misunderstanding common-sense advice with “victim-blaming shit,” we are in essence turning women into victims. We have the strength to take our own lives into our hands. We have the right to make our own decisions. We have the responsibility to accept the concequences of those choices. That doesn’t mean a woman is to blame, it simply means that she should be given tools to protect herself from the world we live in. Some rapes can’t be helped, but some can, and I refuse to let people tell me that no, there isn’t anything I can do to prevent a rape because men just suck and women are just weaker.

merryn smith // Posted 9 August 2009 at 8:28 pm

There is a major problem with a ‘message’ that represents the consequences of rape as bad/sad because the perpetrator ends up in goal… Surely the consequence should be the cost to the victim first… Here we can see that masculinity is represented as self interested and completely lacking in empathy. Most men would see the negative here as being caught not the pain they cause women.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 10 August 2009 at 11:14 am


Thank you for your comment.

I disagree.

You suggested that you don’t want to go along with a theory that says ‘men just suck and women are just weaker’. For me, that’s exactly what your approach is supporting.

The scenarios you gave about not being surprised if a woman is raped if she gets drunk and wears a short skirt or goes to a party alone – isn’t that basically what you’re saying? That if a woman gets drunk its not surprising if she gets raped. Why is it not surprising in your view?

Implication – because men just suck, women are just weaker, and if a drunk woman is around a man will inevitably try to rape her, because men are animals?

This is really offensive to men.

The logical implication of your scenarios would appear to be that women should never get drunk and never wear short skirts, never be alone with a man, etc. I really don’t think that this is the way we should be going. Where does it stop? Asking women to constantly be on their guard, to limit their actions, to always be looking over their shoulder, is effectively operating a curfew on women and applying different rules of behaviour to women than men. How does this prevent rape at it’s root cause – the rapists?

As you pointed out, most rapists are someone the victim knows, not a stranger. How does short skirt wearing come into that scenario? Or being drunk? Or is that different? Why is it different?

Really, what a woman wears, or whether a woman is drunk or not, is totally irrelevant.

Yes, rapes do happen in this world. But we need to be focusing on preventing them, and not focusing on women’s actions, what women wear, whether they drink or whatever, as it is the rapists who are at fault and it is them we need to be blaming and targeting.

We have had campaigns for years and years and years which target women. There is certainly no shortage of emails, and media coverage that tells women not to get drunk, wear skirts and so on.

This is one single campaign that does not. I really think we should be supporting this.

Finally I think it’s really inappropriate to compare a woman wearing a skirt to ‘waving hundred-dollar bills around’. You’re comparing women to money, to property, to an object. This isn’t right.

Feminists have written about this many times before. I found this example after a quick google, but maybe other people have better examples, or can explain this better than I can?

Catherine Redfern // Posted 10 August 2009 at 11:20 am

D’oh! We’ve got lots of articles on the F Word about this issue, of course. I’d suggest reading these:





Jovet // Posted 22 August 2009 at 9:33 pm

I wish I had made my points a bit clearer, so I will address that in my response.

First, I should have used the words “victim” and “perpetrator” rather than “men” and “women.” There are women out there who victimize men (and women), and there are men victimized by women (and men). However, for the purposes of this thread, the issue seems to be men victimizing women, which is why I am not speaking on men as victims and women as perpetrators.

We deserve to live in a world where crime doesn’t occur, where a person can walk down the street naked in the middle of the night and not worry about being accosted. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. We have made great strides, in some countries, in moving towards that goal. We are finally getting to the point that we understand that if a person chooses to victimize another, it is not the victim’s fault per the legal system. The problem is that this doesn’t stop all rapes. Yes, we can prosecute perpetrators until the jails are overflowing, but what are we doing to prevent the crime from happening in the first place? A rape, once done, is something a person may never be able to come to terms with. How much better would it be if we educated and encouraged others to do everything they can to prevent a crime in the first place?

There are common sense approaches we must use in order to ensure that we have a relatively crime-free experience in life. You don’t walk through the bad part of town flashing money, thus opening yourself up to a mugging. You wear your seat belt in case someone else hits you, to protect your life. You don’t leave your car running outside the mini-mart because someone may hop in and drive away. When traveling, you keep your passport tucked away under your clothes, not in a purse or a pocket where it can be lifted. We learn to live with the ugliness of society, adapting our behavior to protect ourselves even as we fight to progress society to a place where we don’t have to take special measures.

No one deserves to be raped. No one has the right to do that to another person. While not yet perfect, our legal system is progressing to the point where the victim isn’t blamed. It’s never their fault, even if they are strolling naked through the worst part of town at 4am. Just like it isn’t the money-flasher’s fault that they are mugged, or the person who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was hit by a drunk driver, or the victim who left his car running and had it stolen, or the traveler who carelessly stowed all of their info in their purse, only to have it snatched. Just because it isn’t their fault doesn’t mean that these things don’t happen. They do, and far more often than people are aware.

I will always believe that every individual has the right to control their own body, make their own decisions, and do whatever they want so long as they aren’t hurting anyone. With that comes personal responsibility. And this is where it gets hairy.

I will forever be surprised at the sheer stupidity of people. One night, after leaving a bar with some friends (including a designated driver), we came across a very drunk girl wearing very little clothes, hobbling confusedly down a dark ally screaming “Oh, my God, I’m so drunk” and giggling. We herded her into the light and asked if she had come with any friends. They had taken off, she told me, and she didn’t know how she was going to get home. All this was said as we were trying to keep her from being too “friendly” with her hands (she seemed to be bisexual and was groping anyone in her reach). A cab was called, the woman bustled in, and I hope she got through her door safely. Now, what would have happened if it was not me who happened upon her, if instead is was a drunk, lonely person that would respond to her pats and gropes? What if she had come across a truly dangerous rapist? It wouldn’t have been her fault. It still would have happened and she would have needed some serious counseling.

Most of the time, bad things won’t happen. Most people are decent. Not all of them are, and occasionally, something may happen to us that we don’t want. How to protect ourselves from this? No, we cannot stay in our homes, doors locked tight, never letting anyone in. This would give us a lot of protection, but it isn’t living. Each person has to find that balance between enjoying life and being careful. If a person wants to wear sexy clothes, fine. Be aware of the level of attention that you bring, and make sure you aren’t left alone, that you have friends around. If you want to go out and get drunk, bring a designated driver. Ahead of time, agree on how much responsibility that designated driver has towards making sure you don’t wander away and get accosted. And for god’s sake, never accept a drink from someone you don’t know and trust. Be aware of what you are doing and what your safety level is. If you are a thrill seeker and you enjoy that danger, well, prosecute away but be aware that in courting danger, things can go south really fast. Living in blissful denial that you can wear what you want or act how you want or drink what you want and don’t have to worry about getting hurt isn’t practical or realistic.

When I was raped, I was years getting through it. Up to that point in my life, I had been molested, pressured into sex, and mugged at gunpoint. I had to come to the realization that I could not rely on others to keep me safe and that I shouldn’t blindly believe that everyone held my moral views. I had to do everything I could to protect myself, and if I was victimized anyway, at least I wouldn’t be second-guessing myself, wondering if I had done something to bring it on. There is a strength in that, a peace in that. Just like going to a self-defense class is exhilarating and empowering, so to can taking responsibility for your actions. By saying that there is nothing, ever, a woman can do to keep from being raped, we are taking that hard-won autonomy and giving it back to men. A lot of rapes are rapes of opportunity, and by removing the opportunity, you can sometimes prevent a rape. This is what I meant to say, that by allowing women to empower themselves and teaching them that they don’t have to be victims is just as important as educating men about what constitutes rape, as well as the repercussions. It’s a fine line between blame and personal responsibility. Sadly, because of the knee-jerk reaction that we are blaming the victim when we warn people to be careful, this is the sort of topic most won’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. That doesn’t make the problem go away. If just one rape is prevented because someone took some careful precautions as they go out to enjoy the world, isn’t it important? It is never an issue that should be brought up in the courtroom. It is something that should be explored in other ways. People deserve to know that they have the power to protect themselves. And if they are raped, they should never have to go through thinking “oh, lord, what could I have done to prevent this?” because they’ve done everything they could.

Sorry about the length. This is a big issue for me.

And as for the money comment, well, I was in no way comparing women to money. I was comparing crimes (rape and mugging) in order to point out a common sense precaution in one. I honestly don’t understand how you got that I was comparing women to money.

As for the history of media coverage, well, all I can say is that what I have seen growing up was more blamey and less personal responsibility. As I’ve said, it is a fine line and hard to walk. Some of the most effective campaigns I’ve seen were those that talked about being safe and protecting yourself as well as the campaigns teaching men what does and does not constitute consent. Personal responsibility is very important!

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