Does Showing Sexual Assault Empower Women to Do Something About it?

photo of rape france advertisement man assaulting woman pictures

A French organisation against sexual assault, Contre le Viol, has released a poster which pictures sexual assault as a means of encouraging women to sign an online petition (the poster may be NSFW, depending on where you work). The poster states:

“75,000 (French) women are raped every year. Rape: the shame should switch sides.”

I find this poster anything but empowering. In fact, it makes me outright uncomfortable. And I would argue that I don’t exactly need to feel more uncomfortable about rape. I’m pretty sure I’ve …

… already solidified it in my mind as a terrible thing – I don’t need assistance in making it stand forefront in my mind as something I’d like to not have happen to me.

If the goal is to get women to report sexual assault, I would argue that confronting them with an image of a sexual assault is in no way going to make them feel empowered. This can only conjure awful memories for women who have been assaulted, and I can only imagine some poor women sitting on the subway, trying to advert her eyes from this poster. I can even see being moved to tears by it.

So if the poster renders ineffective for women, then what does it say to men? Well, the pose held by the woman in the poster isn’t exactly what I would think representative of a victim of assault. A woman in that position would likely be trying to claw the bastard’s eyes out (I know I sure as hell would). Her pose is somewhat helpless, and I can’t see men viewing women as helpless-flail-abouts in need of someone to punch their attacker’s lights out as a helpful message. If the idea behind the poster is really about switching the blame, then shouldn’t the attacker be the focus, and not the victim (I understand it would be hard to find a model who would be willing to have their face splashed across posters advertising them as a rapist, but I’m sure if they can find actors to play herpes victims in commercials, they can find a guy willing to play a rapist)? I’m sure the image will at least make men feel uncomfortable, but I am really hoping they were already uncomfortable with the idea to start off with.

What do you think? Does this poster make you want to go online and sign the petition?

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9 thoughts on “Does Showing Sexual Assault Empower Women to Do Something About it?

  1. “what does it say to men?”
    The current image makes me feel uncomfortable… The fact the man is hiding his face makes me angry. I do agree that not enough little focus is on the male then should be. The woman is not fighting back, but I have to ask my self if this does not reflect reality a little. Not all women fight back and that does not mean it was not assault.

  2. I’m uncomfortable too. If an abuser/rapist saw this poster, I think they might just get turned on. It shows a woman being dominated – the man’s hands are over her genitals and mouth, silencing her and assaulting her at the same time. That’s not empowering, it’s too much like what it feels like to be assaulted, to be in that powerless place of fear and shame. Maybe there is a place for images like this as a wake up call to people who have never been in or thought about that place, but to claim it as a message of empowerment seems off the mark for me.

    • Same; it makes me uncomfortable, but not the kind of uncomfortable that makes me want to take action. It just makes me want to kind of shuffle away and not look.

  3. Yeah they could have found a better picture… If it was altered with her looking like she was more obviously having an unpleasant experience then it would be better. It almost seems like he is covering her mouth to keep anyone from hearing her sounds of pleasure, not her scream. I know that sounds horrible, but this could easily be perceived as a sexy tryst in which the two were engaging in publicly and needed to keep secret. If I just saw the picture and didn’t speak french, I might get kind of… turned on.

  4. I also see that side of the picture Gigi, I think having it displayed on this website changes the context so we know whats happening without need to read text.
    Ill have to give this picture a thumbs down. Context like Gigi says plays a large part in the delivery of this picture. I think at the very least it carries too little of the context text that this woman is not consenting. Even it if did carry more context I’m convinced the focus would still be on the fear and suffering of the victim when instead it should be on the evil occurring.

    • Just because a man has on a suit does not mean he cant sexually assault another person. Unless, perhaps you mean to point out some underlying reference to gendered class-ism. I feel the stereotype ugly, poorly dressed creeper is over saturated and I think the attire of the male was chosen to remind people of this.
      However…hm, this is the French we are talking about so you could be total right hahaha x3.

  5. The picture is crap. She looks merely irritated, not terrified.
    I just don’t like this whole idea. I have no desire to see anyone assaulted, and I think this would actually have the effect of desensitizing instead of educating.

    • I think part of it is that her body shows very little tension; only her left hand and her face show anxiety or distress. The rest of her is fairly relaxed. Plus, the arched back is more indicative of pleasure than distress. It would make more sense for her to be arched away from him.

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