Activism@SRC / #AfterNightFail
In the months leading up to Reclaim the Night 2019, which was themed around ending victim blaming culture, Suffolk Police relaunched their #AfterNightFall campaign- which was a reinvention of a similar campaign they ran during Freshers Week in Suffolk.
The #AfterNightFall campaign focused on ‘keeping people safe during the winter evenings, including during Christmas Party season’, but was rife with victim blaming language around sexual violence, including telling women to ‘be on their phone’ and to ‘avoid dark alleyways’.
Suffolk Police claimed that they were relaunching this campaign due to the ‘success’ of the first campaign- which we had contacted them about previously as inappropriate.
At Suffolk Rape Crisis we were concerned as to how ‘success’ had been measured, as reports of sexual violence in Suffolk were increased, but the conviction rate was dropping. The tips that they provided in the campaign were not only victim blaming, but misleading, as it encouraged women to be alert to drink spiking and to leave it with a friend. As 98% of women know their perpetrator, this isn’t helpful advice, and the stranger danger sexual violence myth is heightened. We were also disgusted by the use of the wording such as ‘excessive alcohol can make people vulnerable to becoming victims of crime’ and ‘leads to prompt poor decision making’, which infers that if you drink too much, then experiencing sexual violence is a consequence.
We decided to take to our Twitter platform and call Suffolk Police out, as they had failed to consult with us despite numerous attempts to contact them. We hash tagged our campaign #AfterNightFail and created a thread of rape culture myth-busting tweets that addressed their victim blaming advice. You can read the full thread here:
Whilst Suffolk Police took the campaign down and insisted the wording was not sexual violence specific- they did not apologise for their words. On the very day of Reclaim the Night 2019, our staff team visited Ipswich’s Christmas Tree Festival- where different organisations and businesses can dress a Christmas Tree to be displayed. To our dismay, shock, and wonder, Suffolk Police had created a Christmas Tree which was decorated with similar victim blaming language- this time accompanied by photos of drunk women slumped on the floor- which was definitely sexual violence specific.
Again, we took to Twitter, with the same hash tag, and called out the victim blaming language once again. We know first-hand that women do not feel able to report due to fear of being disbelieved and blamed, and this language and imagery from Suffolk Police reinforced this fear.
This time, we went viral! Suddenly we were being retweeted by The Womens Equality Party, and prominent academics, who condemned the actions of Suffolk Police and stood in solidarity with us at SRC. We were written about in numerous newspapers, asked to appear on the radio and even a news section for East Anglia. Suffolk Police apologised for their campaign, including the Christmas Tree- and agreed to consult with us on wording for campaigns moving forward.
We look forward to continuing our online activism with our growing social media platform, and we are committed to calling out injustices when we see them.
The Team @ SRC!