FORMER Tory politician Ann Widdecombe has defended a poster used by Sussex Police to reduce the number of people suffering rapes and sexual assaults.
The force has been forced to withdraw a poster it published last week after it was criticised for blaming victims by encouraging friends to stay together on nights out.
Mrs Widdecombe wrote in her Daily Express column:
“Well done to the Sussex Police for publishing a poster advising young girls to stick together on a night out.
“With all the silliness that we have come to expect, some women’s rights groups are complaining that such posters blame the victims for rape. Tosh.”
She went on: “So let me give all those feminist harridans apoplexy by saying unapologetically that young girls should stick together, know how they are going to get home, drink moderately and not dress too scantily.”
Speaking earlier this week, detective superintendent Paul Furnell, head of public protection, 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 I understand the concerns that have been raised about the poster and they will be withdrawn.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.”
James Rowlands, strategic commissioner for domestic and sexual violence for Brighton & Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council, welcomed the decision and said he was now looking forward to working with the police in the future.
He said they had a ‘shared commitment’ to supporting victims, raising awareness about consent and holding to account those who committed rape or sexual assault.