Examples of sexual harm communications
examples of campaign messages
The following are real examples of sexual harm campaign messages and our thoughts about them. These are just our thoughts; yours may be different. Because some of these campaigns are old, we are not attempting to criticise any organisation and we are making no judgements about those responsible. All of us are constantly learning and trying to improve. What we do hope to do is to: encourage you to reflect on past communications and campaigns, provoke conversation and debate, and prompt inspiration.
Please note that the following information / imagery may trigger trauma.
2015 police campaign .The intention of this message may have been to encourage individuals to stay together so that they may be safer. Directly interpreted though, this means that if someone is left on their own, they are ‘vulnerable’. This puts a responsibility on that person to not be alone/vulnerable. This message also places the responsibility for that person’s ‘vulnerability’ on the friends who have left them behind. This message makes the implied danger the responsibility of everyone else, other than the implied attacker/assailant. In reality someone on their own should not be ‘vulnerable’ to rape or other sexual harm, because people in our society shouldn’t rape or sexually harm others.
This campaign  uses a range of artwork depicting a diverse range of individuals with very clear myth and fact statements. The campaign doesn’t shy away from challenging myths and this demonstrates a serious, transparent and mature approach to having an open conversation about sexual harm and why it exists in our society. The campaign imagery is positive in tone which makes it approachable and far less likely to trigger individuals with lived experience of sexual harm. The #itsapeopleissue encourages a broader societal conversation about sexual harm.
2015 police tweet . This message encourages the reader to believe that drinking alcohol / getting ‘drunk’ makes an individual ‘vulnerable’, and that whilst that person is vulnerable (which they have chosen to do through getting drunk) they may be raped / experience sexual or other harm. In reality, someone who has had little, some or a lot of alcohol should not be ‘vulnerable’ to rape or other sexual harm, because people in our society shouldn’t rape or sexually harm others. This messages also targets those who may experience sexual offences, rather than encouraging potential perpetrators to modify their behaviour.
This campaign  is a good example of using statistics with respect and purpose to make a point. The intent behind this artwork is to demonstrate that the issue is prevalent and that behind each statistic is a human being. The image forms part of a series of visuals which depict individuals that the intended audience can identify with (i.e. students).
2013 local authority campaign. This message blames an individual three times for potentially being raped or experiencing another form or sexual harm. The blame is in the forms of the word ‘reckless’, ‘losing control’ and putting ‘yourself at risk’. An individual who has experienced sexual harm and has viewed such a message as this, may be reluctant to seek help and support in case they are judged for being ‘reckless’ and drinking too much.
2013 police campaign . This campaign is aimed directly at individuals who sexually harm others. Each poster takes an ‘excuse’ for rape, and clearly states that it’s not okay which helps to challenge harmful cultures and attitudes towards sexual harm.
2014 campaign . This message places the blame for rape with the individual who has been raped. This message could be perceived as meaning ‘don’t drink, don’t get raped’. What this message doesn’t say is ‘if someone has been drinking or if they haven’t been drinking, don’t rape them’.
This campaign  sends a clear message that there are no excuses for rape and it also challenges the damaging stereotype of an individual who through their own actions, may have made themselves ‘vulnerable to being raped’. The tone of the campaign is directed at those who harm others which is powerful and direct. It also highlights that individuals are entitled to live their lives safely and without fear of harm.
This police campaign offers a series of short and clear messages which are relevant to a wide range of individuals. This message speaks to potential perpetrators of harm and also raises awareness about consent and what it means. Another message in the series encourages individuals to speak with the police about their experience when they are ready which shows respect and understanding for how individuals may be feeling, following a traumatic experience.
This 2021 campaign  offers clear and positive messages in the form of postcards. Many communications and campaign messages don’t always focus on ‘what next’ after someone has experienced sexual harm but this one does. It’s a simple and powerful message that everyone’s experiences are unique and that we shouldn’t feel pressured by how other people are, or appear to be, dealing with their own experiences.
- Many campaigns feature artwork of young attractive white females, which can create a stereotype of the ‘type of person’ likely to be sexually harmed. ONS data for the year ending March 2018 to year ending March 2020 combined indicates that adults of black or black British and mixed ethnicity were more likely to experience sexual assault than those of white, Asian or other ethnicity. For the same data period, the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that women with a disability were more likely to have experienced sexual assault in the last year than women without a disability. 
- Campaigns rarely focus on the weeks, months and years following a sexual offence (or living with sexual offences being repeated over a long period of time)
- Campaigns often focus on the potential ‘victim’ of a sexual offence, rather than potential perpetrators of crime and harm
- Campaign artwork often features an outside environment, but 63% of rapes which took place in the victim or perpetrators home 
- Campaigns often appear to focus on ‘stranger rape’ rather than sexual harm caused by partners, acquaintances etc
- Campaigns rarely seem to focus on the challenges that individuals face, who are experiencing trauma due to being sexually harmed (for example having to be signed off work with ‘stress’ or inappropriately labelled with a mental health condition; or consuming alcohol or self-harming in an attempt to control or manage their trauma)
 Sexual offences victim characteristics, England and Wales: year ending March 2020
 ONS – years ending March 2017 and March 2020 combined