A bold poster campaign, which targets the perpetrators of sexual assault instead of victims, has been re-launched in the city of Edmonton, after a successful run in 2010 which turned global. The campaign was initiated by a group called Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton, or SAVE, which includes partners as diverse as the local police department, Red Cross Canada, and the University of Alberta Women’s Studies department.
The poster’s core message is that “…sexual contact without ongoing and active consent is sexual assault,” explains Lise Gotell, chairwoman of Women’s Studies at the University of Alberta. This message comes across loud and clear through simple wording and striking images.
The first campaign focused on alcohol-related sexual assaults. In the relaunch SAVE decided to include posters on more diverse types of sexual assault. For example, one of the posters features two men. “We wanted to expand this beyond the heterosexual audience. Sexual assault is also a problem in terms of same-sex sexual assault,” Gotell said.
You would think that the strategy of establishing a cultural norm of consent and reinforcing that anything else is assault would be more widely used. But unfortunately, most sexual assault prevention campaigns teach potential victims to restrict their behavior to avoid rape. The SAVE website notes, unsurprisingly, that research shows this strategy to be ineffective, and contributes to self-blame in survivors. Gotell mentions that “Our campaign places responsibility where it belongs — on the perpetrators.” How refreshing.