Ad wars: You got your anti-rape message in my peripheral vision


One of four new posters in a sexual assault awareness campaign by Edmonton Police Services.

One of four new posters in a sexual assault awareness campaign by Edmonton Police Services.

Canada’s Edmonton Police Services, working with rape-prevention non-profit groups, has decided that the only way to go in a campaign about sexual assault awareness is: Go big or go home.

The new ads, released as part of a two-year-long campaign, give some graphic representation to so-called “date rape” scenarios with the tag line: Don’t be that guy. The campaign is being heralded as a turning point in rape awareness campaigns that put the onus on the perpetrator, rather than more shaming (aka judgement) for would-be victims.

According to their website:

What you can expect from us is a series of campaigns with the aim of educating the public to  reduce the incidences of sexual violence. Through these campaigns we will raise awareness, challenge myths, fight victim-blaming, empower bystanders, and stand in solidarity with survivors. We see Edmonton as a community that is looking for a shift  to one that that is about respecting one another. SAVE wants to be part of this change. The way that we think about and respond to sexual assault is evolving. And it’s time.


I admit, the graphic nature of the campaign — which includes scenarios representing victims of different genders and sexual orientations — could definitely be triggering for survivors of sexual violence. Maybe it’s the punk girl in me or the warrior I found inside myself as a survivor, but I like the spirit of the campaign.

We need to feel shocked by rape. We need to feel angry about sexual violence.

And I’m not alone in praising this campaign. From Feministing:

Between Edmonton’s efforts, the recent ads from Men Can Stop Rape, and those Scottish ads from a couple years ago, there are plenty of examples of how to create an anti-rape campaign that doesn’t actively support rape culture–and may actually help prevent sexual assaults.

Indeed, this campaign reminds me of one about domestic violence I saw in high school depicting a woman who was severely beaten, looking directly into the camera. It was a print campaign, but those startling, unsettling images were meaningful. It gets to the core of a very basic human quality: Show, don’t tell. Show people an image of a battered woman, and underline in a simple campaign why ye olde “wife beating” is wrong, and the culture shifts. Show us an image of the moment when a good times turns bad, and you can practically hear the sound of lightbulbs illuminating over people’s heads.

It’s not pretty. But changing society is not always pretty.

If you or someone you know needs help or information regarding sexual violence, please check out RAINN.

2 thoughts on “Ad wars: You got your anti-rape message in my peripheral vision

  1. Pingback: Feminist Files: The new normal « The Sin City Siren

  2. Pingback: Trouble with the 5-0 « The Sin City Siren

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s