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July 7, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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ALAC’s Lisa – warning to be sensible or wrongly blamed victim?

I’m sure you’ve all seen the latest batch of ALAC’s “It’s not the drinking, it’s how we’re drinking” advertisements. There was the drunken guy at the BBQ who swings his kid round in an airplane accidentally throwing his child against the wall (idiot); the other drunken guy who starts beating up guys in the pub, including elbowing a lady in the nose, and ends up bloodied and coma-ed on his bathroom floor, in full view of his young child (idiot). Then there’s Lisa, nervous at an after work drinks, having a few wines, getting a bit crazy on the d-floor, and then being dragged off to be raped. Idiot?

Various women’s organisations in the community are upset about this ad, saying it encourages ‘victim-blaming’ – outdated stereotypical attitudes towards sexual violence that our second wave sisters fought hard to combat. A victim blaming mentality endorses the belief that women bear some responsibility for being raped and can be concisely summed up in such lovely phrases as “she asked for it” and “she was wearing a short skirt.” The important thing about these myths is that they remove blame and responsibility from the attacker. If a woman is raped, she should never be blamed. It is not her fault. But does this ALAC ad encourage this mentality? Or merely seek to encourage women to be more careful when they’re drinking?

‘Lisa’ (catch her ad on YouTube or the ALAC website) has a few drinks after work, gets pretty trashed and gets cosy with a guy on the dance floor. Stumbling outside, you see him grab her, and the screen go black as the sounds of her screams fade. The implication being that if she wasn’t drinking, she wouldn’t be in this situation.

One comment on Facebook sums up the argument against the ad: “Ok. Let’s take the sexual element out of the crime. If someone is drunk and someone else beats them up, is it the drunk person’s fault? No. So why should rape be any different? … In the violence example society demands the attackers change their behaviour, not the victims – victims shouldn’t have to alter their behaviour to accommodate violence, even if their behaviour is arguably not that smart.” Good point – and does a woman being drunk even cause rape? Does being sober prevent rape? Does being with a friend prevent rape? In fact you are more likely to be raped by someone you know in a domestic situation than you are by a random, unknown attacker in the street. Shouldn’t the community, rather than the individual work to stop violence in our society?

Many say that these advertisements contribute to the fact that rape often goes unreported because victims fear such retaliation.

According to Gerard Vaughan, CEO of ALAC, “All three ads work together”, so when placed in context with the other two advertisements which clearly blame the drunken person for their behaviour, it makes it pretty hard not to place some responsibility at the feet of poor Lisa.

In a perfect world where women had no chance of being raped, we wouldn’t need an advertisement like this. But in the real world does an ad like this help by pointing to the very real dangers of making yourself vulnerable through alcohol on a night out?

According to Gerard Vaughan, CEO of ALAC (interviewed on 95bFM’s The Wire – podcast available online) the ads came about from their market research – talking to female drinkers who stated their biggest risk whilst drinking was getting in a vulnerable situation. He states that the ads are not a judgement about women, but rather simply about the drinking.

He also said they were very careful when making the ad about the unintended consequences it might cause, so they “Tested that very carefully with our target audiences to make sure their outtake was ‘this is about the drinking’” – rather than the rape. They did show it to rape agencies once the ad was made (but not in consultation beforehand) who (unsurprisingly) raised some concerns.

I’ve made my flatmates and family watch the ad and tell me what they think the message is. Most say, you’re at risk if you drink. When I tell them about victim-blaming, they are initially flummoxed (Is that because we internalise these rape myths ourselves?) but when I state the arguments, they can definitely see how it places responsibility with the victim.

And if we go down the pragmatic route, does an ad like this even make people think about their behaviour anyway? If not, then it’s not worth endorsing sexist stereotypes for no practical benefit. I would love to see the market research results before and after this campaign.

The purpose of this column is merely to draw people’s attention to this interesting and relevant debate. If you’re interested check out the Facebook group “Take ALAC’s ‘Lisa’ ad off the air!” with links to various feminist blogs posting on the matter.

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About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

Comments (1)

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  1. April T says:

    I am a rape victim. Ive been to trail and won the case, It was a horrible jouney and is still not over. I feel like IM being treated like a criminal for pusuing justice. I have been put through all sorts of traumatic situations from the rape itself to the medical examination, the police interviews and lets not forget the unruly tactics of the defense lawyer, and even after winning my case in court im being harrassed by the attackers family and friends. i had to relocate my family,am constantly having to change phone numbers and am even being tracked by a private investigator hired by the rapists mother. and the police say theres nothing they can do about it, yet the attacker is fully protected by the law and is not allowed to be harrassed by anyone let alone anyone from my family. that doesnt seem fair does it.
    My point is I dont drink,I dont dress provocatively, I knew the attacker he was my partners best friend, and i was not out partying I was in my own home.
    drinking doesnt automatically waive your right to not be harmed, its not an invitation to be raped. No woman should be blamed for being raped or share any part of the blame for it.

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