Victim Blaming – a complaint and what we have done about it

We received this very impassioned email from one of our visitors to the site this week…

I think that you should consult some women’s charities before writing your section on sex and alcohol. Firstly it is largely aimed at girls, and the intention seems to be to prevent them from drinking through telling them that ‘they’ are putting themselves at risk. At no point do I see anything telling boys that they should not sleep with women/girls who are drunk and that it is rape!
I do not see you telling girls that there is a too drunk to consent law. Just that girls drinking causes of them being taken advantage of, it’s not dissimilar to telling women that they should cover up to avoid harm, or to stay indoors. It could cause very serious harm if a girl who has been raped whilst drunk accessed this page. I think you should consider rewording it and making it more informative. If you are going to include advice on how women can avoid danger you must make explicit that if something does happen that it is not their fault. It would also be useful if you targeted information to boys as well, as it isn’t women who are raping themselves (not that you’d know from you sex and alcohol section).
Here is our response…

Firstly we would like to thank you for taking the time to post your comments about the page ‘sex and the law’. We pride ourselves on listening to the people who use the site, especially the views of young people, and it is very clear that you are passionate about the current trend of victim blaming. This is something that we too feel really strongly about and are currently working hard to write new material for the site to help combat the attitudes that many people still have when it comes women/girls and sex, which is why we wrote this page: “words can never hurt you”.

All of the material on the site has been written with the help of young people and in response to people like yourself telling us about the issues that matter to them, that they face daily and that they feel strongly about or need support with.

As a result of your comments we have reviewed the page and made a few amendments, so thank you for raising your points – it is the only way we can keep improving the site.

In our defense, the page was never intended to be anti-drinking or to be aimed specifically at young women. It was adapted from a much longer piece that covers a whole host of topics and issues around sex and relationships. This page was not written with the aim of tackling the issue of sex and alcohol in terms of rape or sexual assault – that is covered elsewhere on the site in pages title “Darker side of Sex” (for these pages we did consult with support workers from local rape and sexual assault services to make sure they were happy with them), however, you are right we should make much stronger links between the two, and this has been rectified.

The page initially was designed to acknowledge that it is natural for young people to want to drink alcohol and often to engage in sexual or risky behaviours as a result. The aim of the page is not to point the finger or lay blame, but instead to help young people to think about some of the issues that may arise and to be more proactive in their thought processes when they are planning their nights out to have fun.

However, we have made some changes to make our intentions more clear and to incorporate some of the points you have raised.

Also, just to let you know we are currently working on a lot of new material around consent, relationship abuse, sexual exploitation, pornography, negotiating sex and more around the gender double standard when it comes to sex. This material should be live in the next few weeks… we hope you will let us know what you think.

Thank you we really do appreciate your help…

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