Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Responds to Offensive Date-Rape Ad

By now, you’ve probably seen the controversial Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board ads. You know, the ones that feature photos of what appear to be a young girl’s legs splayed on a tiled bathroom floor with underwear around her ankles.

The ads send the message that women are not only at fault for getting themselves raped—a societal bias reflected in and re-enforced by too many court decisions—it’s your fault if your friend gets raped, too.

Last night, after receiving hundreds of phone calls and hundreds of email complaints, the PLCB has yanked the ads.

“We feel very strong, and still do, that when we entered the initial discussion about doing a campaign like this it was important to bring the most difficult conversations about over-consumption of alcohol to the forefront and all of the dangers associated with it—date rape being one of these things,” says PLCB spokesperson Stacey Witalec. “That being said, due to the number of concerns that we heard about that specific ad, and the victims especially that we heard from talking about how the image … made them feel victimized all over again, we felt it was prudent to pull it.”

The campaign, developed with Philadelphia-based ad agency Neiman Group, has been in the works since 2009.

PW recently spoke with Dr. Veronique Valliere, a therapist, member of Pennsylvania’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board and nationally renowned expert on alcohol and rape.

“Alcohol is a very accessible date-rape drug, and there’s a couple of ways it’s used by offenders,” says Valliere, speaking on the phone from her office in Foglesville, Pa.

Valliere says excessive drinking won’t create the desire to assault someone in a person who doesn’t already have it, but if the urge is lurking in there somewhere, alcohol will minimize the effect of the factors that usually prevent a person from acting on it. “[Alcohol] doesn’t create deviance, but it facilitates the expression of it,” she says.

Valliere adds that offenders consciously introduce or exploit the presence of alcohol in a situation knowing full well it will increase the odds that society—and juries, and sometimes even the victim—will blame the victim.

“There’s a dynamic just in terms of the belief of culpability with alcohol that goes on in our society that offenders are well aware of and often use. Offenders know that when people are drinking … when somebody commits a crime or bad deed, we hold them far less responsible for their behavior. The flip side is … when a victim is drinking, we hold them more responsible for what happens.”

Valliere points out yet another advantage alcohol provides to the rapist.

“They also use a victim’s intoxication to increase [opportunity] through the social things required, like “Oh, she’s getting sick, ‘I’ll take her to her room’ or ‘She can’t drive, I’ll take her home,’” she says.r

When asked if the agency considered creating an ad targeting men that tells them it’s not OK to rape a woman just because she’s been drinking, Witalec responded, “Yes, there [were] many different scenarios. This is just the one the agency chose to go with.”

Meanwhile, the agency claims it is not surprised “at all” by the widespread backlash. “If we can prevent one person from taking that next drink, then we feel this campaign has been an enormous success,” said Witalec.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow expert testimony in rape cases, making it easier to get away with sexual assault here than anywhere else—partly because without an expert to testify, jurors are left making judgments based on the biases perpetuated in the PLCB ad.

What PLCB did get right is to show that the product it peddles can indeed be extremely dangerous. Perhaps that’s partly why PLCB kept the news of a new program that delivers the stuff to your front door, launched just before the ad, on the hush.

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