From faux-pology to no-pology
Philippa Willitts // 9 August 2012
In this week’s round-up post we reported that West Mercia Police had apologised for their victim-blaming campaign which I wrote about here. According to the BBC, Det Supt Ivan Powell said, “If the campaign has caused distress, that was not our aim and I will apologise for that.
“This was not about blaming victims but putting information out to help”.
Sure, it was a “if… then…” apology, but it showed they had listened to the concerns expressed by Jocelyn Anderson of the West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre that the posters put blame on victims of rape if they had been drinking, and that the ‘male version’ of the poster was factually incorrect, stating that if someone has sex with someone against their will, it could be against the law (when it clearly is, and I would expect the police, of all people, to know this), as well as appealing to men to not commit rape by warning them that they might lose their job.
But, like I said, it showed that they had listened to concerns, right? Right?
No. West Mercia Police have taken the astonishing step of telling the press that they did not apologise for the campaign, and that they stood by it. They told the Worcester Standard that,
“We haven’t apologised for the campaign,” she said.
“Our officer was asked to comment on local radio on the opinion of a rape victim who said that she was disappointed with the campaign and she didn’t like it. He said we apologise if that’s how it made her feel and that wasn’t our intention. He was making an apology to one woman but that has been turned into police apologising for the campaign. We have had criticisim from a few people but we have also had quite a lot of support from other people who think it’s a good campaign.”
This is the police force that women in the region are supposed to continue to approach if they are raped, including if they are assaulted when they are drunk. The attitude of the original campaign could well have been offputting to women in this situation, but retracting an apology and refusing to accept that their posters were badly targeted shows a calculated refusal to take on board the views of experts in the field like the West Mercia RASASC. The initial campaign may have been misguided, but reinforcing it in this way shows a complete disregard which would certainly might make some think twice about approaching this force if they needed to in such a situation.
[The image is a photograph of the words ‘West Mercia Police’ on the side of a car door. It was taken by 04smallmj and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]