Sussex Police has withdrawn a rape prevention poster after critics said it appeared to blame victims.
The campaign urged friends and bystanders to play a ‘key role’.
The poster features a picture of two smiling young women posing for a selfie, with the text: ‘Which one of your mates is most vulnerable on a night out? The one you leave behind.’ It goes on: ‘Many sexual assaults could be prevented. Stick together and don’t let your friend leave with a stranger or go off on their own.’
But the Force withdrew the posters on Friday April 10 after a petition was launched, accusing Sussex Police of blaming rape victims.
Sarah Green, acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said she found the advice ‘infuriating’.
She said: “We need to get beyond police campaigns giving instructions to women on how to behave to be safe. We need to talk to those who may perpetrate rape and deter them.”
Fabia Bates, of the Survivors’ Network, said: ‘‘We are here to support victims – it is never the victim’s fault.”
On Facebook Roz Hannan posted: “If a person is too drunk to consent, then it is rape. Whether the person is wearing a short skirt or a bin liner, it is rape. If they are walking alone down a dark street, it is rape. The victim is never, ever to blame. “
Objector Laura Gasson said: “If men stopped to think what consent was, THAT would help enormously.
“If you ask someone if they want a cup of tea and they say no, they don’t want one – you don’t make them a cup.
“If someone’s drunk or passed out and can’t reply if they want tea it’s safe to say they don’t want a drink, you don’t make a cup then ram it down their throat. ”
Detective Superintendent Paul Furnell, head of public protection at Sussex Police, said: “The way we have gone about this campaign has caused some concern. This was not the intention of our message and for that I apologise.
“We have listened to our partners and we have reached the decision to foreshorten this particular part of the campaign.
“The posters were not intended in any way to blame victims. I understand the concerns that have been raised about the poster and they will be withdrawn. I would like to stress that the posters were well-intentioned with the sole aim of preventing people becoming victims of crime.
“Sussex Police is determined to continue to raise awareness of this issue and, with the support of partners, target those who seek to exploit and abuse vulnerable people.
“Together we are committed to tackling all violence against women, girls, men and boys and will continue a campaign that will focus on rape and sexual offences that will deal with consent, perpetrators, prevention, awareness, education and vulnerability.”
Sussex Police also plan to train security staff and taxi drivers on what to do if they notice someone who appears to be vulnerable.