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Unsafe advice

July 13th, 2006

Dr Petra

Some days you hear about a social or health programme that you can’t quite believe anyone thought was a good idea. Today was definitely one of those days courtesy of the hapless Suffolk police.

In a misplaced attempt to reduce women’s drinking they’ve produced a magazine called ‘Safe’, which contains fashion tips, a problem page and horoscopes.

And also advice for women who intend to drink….

“For those of you intent on getting ratted this weekend, think. If you fall over or pass out, remember your skirt or dress may ride up. For all our sakes, please make sure you’re wearing nice pants and that you’ve recently had a wax”.

“Better still, eat before you go out, drink plenty of water in between bevvies or better still, don’t get in this sorry state – it’s not nice.”

Well, thanks for that.

The police don’t exactly have a good record of working with women. It’s only in the last decade or so they’ve stopped seeing domestic violence as the same level of importance as missing dogs (in other words not a crime or particularly important), and where they’ve had to stop aggressively blaming rape victims when they go to report abuse. Homophobic abuse has only recently come onto the police’s horizon, whilst for decades being in the force was for many a licence to be racist.

Despite proven links between alcohol and domestic violence the police haven’t exactly tried hard to produce similar materials for male drinkers who may do a whole lot more than show off nasty knickers and a pant moustache when they’ve had a few. And to be honest for many women there are many worse things to worry about when you’ve had a few drinks like coercive sex, or robbery – but this advice appears to avoid those abusive behaviours.

With ‘Safe’ we see a side to the police where women are most definitely blamed if they get drunk – you can almost here the bobby saying ‘she was asking for it m’lud’.

It’s ironic that a profession with a long history of sexual harassment of female staff and problems with alcohol abuse sees fit to give ‘advice’ in this way.

There’s a lot of making up to do – a lot of convincing us that we can trust the police, and if we run into trouble then they will be there to help us – not judge or abuse us further.

Of course there are major problems with women’s increased drinking as well as antisocial behaviour – but this magazine isn’t a solution. It’s not clear why Suffolk police felt this would appeal to any woman, or that it would make a difference to drinking.

What is clear is that for many police forces across the UK women’s health and safety needs are still not at the top of the agenda. The whole time we know that coppers are more concerned about getting an eyeful of pubic hair and up-skirt glimpses we know that we’re still not safe.

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