In victim-blaming PSA, New York blames drunk women for their own assault

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

Drink too much, and you might get yourself assaulted. 

That seems to be the victim-blaming message behind a New York City Health Department poster that was recently called out by the Village Voice

The ad is part of the Health Department's "One More Drink Can Hurt" campaign, which debuted in 2014. Other posters in the series are geared toward men and warn against stereotypically masculine activities like barroom brawls: "Keep your friends from hurting themselves or others," one poster reads, its text written beneath a photo of a male bar patron winding up for a punch.

This poster, featuring a woman, is quite different. The woman is shown slumped over and snoring in a subway car, apparently exposed to and defenseless against potential threats. Next to her is the campaign tagline: "Just one more drink can hurt." 

It seems to be a textbook case of victim blaming. Instead of warning people not to commit assault or thievery, it warns women not to drink so much lest they put themselves at risk of being attacked or robbed.

In a statement to the Voice, Stephanie Buhle, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said the ad was crafted after focus group feedback. Buhle said the message is that "excessive drinking can result in someone passing out and being vulnerable to having valuables taken — and ending up in Coney Island when your stop was at Delancey."

Unfortunately, the ad exemplifies an all-too-common attitude toward dealing with sexual assault: Blame women and everything they do. Asking an assault victim what she wore, whether she was drinking or whether she fought back are all ways of shifting the blame for sexual assault onto the victim — and off the person or people who took the opportunity to violate a drunk person. 

"Our call to action in this campaign is to have New Yorkers watch out for their friends," Buhle said. "In creating this scenario, we chose a large purse and a dangling cell phone to emphasize vulnerability." 

As the Village Voice pointed out, the ad ignores the fact that assaulting or robbing a drunk person is a crime. Rather than teaching people about bystander intervention or telling predators not to assault sleeping women, New York City chose to remind women that if you're a woman, you should live in fear — constantly. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew Rodriguez is a Staff Writer at Mic. He is a queer Latino New Yorker who enjoys female rappers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Flannery O'Connor. He is a former editor at TheBody.com and he is working on a memoir.

MORE FROM

Nearly 850 backlogged rape kits were found infested with mold in Texas

The mold-infested rape kits don't appear to have contaminated the DNA samples inside, according to authorities.

Season 11 of 'The X-Files' will be written entirely by men

Only six women have ever written for the beloved sci-fi show, which boasts over 200 episodes and spawned two feature-length films.

Does nursing require a "woman’s touch"? These male nurses say no.

Christian Martin and Dan Douglas are two men working as nurses — and it's mostly NBD.

The GOP health care bill's one-year ban on Planned Parenthood is a bigger problem than you think

Compared to the millions who will lose coverage, restricting federal funds for just 365 days doesn't seem that bad. But it is.

There's a new effort to recall Judge Aaron Perksy, who sentenced Brock Turner

If voters in Persky's county collect enough signatures, the judge could be on the chopping block in 2018.

A Czech company made interns compete in a bikini contest to get hired

A spokesperson from the company said the competition was to "promote technical education."

Nearly 850 backlogged rape kits were found infested with mold in Texas

The mold-infested rape kits don't appear to have contaminated the DNA samples inside, according to authorities.

Season 11 of 'The X-Files' will be written entirely by men

Only six women have ever written for the beloved sci-fi show, which boasts over 200 episodes and spawned two feature-length films.

Does nursing require a "woman’s touch"? These male nurses say no.

Christian Martin and Dan Douglas are two men working as nurses — and it's mostly NBD.

The GOP health care bill's one-year ban on Planned Parenthood is a bigger problem than you think

Compared to the millions who will lose coverage, restricting federal funds for just 365 days doesn't seem that bad. But it is.

There's a new effort to recall Judge Aaron Perksy, who sentenced Brock Turner

If voters in Persky's county collect enough signatures, the judge could be on the chopping block in 2018.

A Czech company made interns compete in a bikini contest to get hired

A spokesperson from the company said the competition was to "promote technical education."