Nottinghamshire Police has been accused of trivialising rape after it published its own take on the poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’.

The poem, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ – which was intended to raise awareness regarding sexual assaults over the Christmas period – has come under fire from female groups who have asked for its withdrawal.

At first glance I applauded Nottinghamshire Police for publishing a poem that aims to place the blame of sexual assault on the perpetrator and demonstrates that even if a woman has had ‘one too many’ at the Christmas party that is in no way a justification for rape.

However, the attempt to target potential attackers through the rewording of a children’s Christmas poem leaves me highly sceptical. Does anyone seriously believe a few rhyming phrases will deter a rapist?

The main problem I have is the use of a child’s Christmas poem in a campaign to increase awareness regarding sexual assault. The use of such a poem simply trivialises and makes light of the horrific nature of rape.

The attempt to target potential attackers through the rewording of a children’s Christmas poem leaves me highly sceptical.

The poster – which depicts a Christmas scene and begins in the same way as the original – fails to portray the seriousness of such a crime. As a result, any well-intended message is lost.

What I find particularly shocking is the use of the phrase ‘Although she screamed no it happened in a flash’, which is not an accurate portrayal of a victim’s experience. Women’s groups often comment that an attack can feel as if it’s going on forever and the memory of an attack will stay with the victim long after the assault has taken place.

What I feel should be applauded is the way the poem condemns the attacker and his belief that ‘he could do what he liked to her because she shared a lift’. Although despite this portrayal of potential attackers, I still fear that the poem’s portrayal of the victim will lead many to interpret that she was out of control and in some way to blame.

I appreciate what they were attempting to do but a different approach, not centred on Christmas, would have been more effective.

Lines such as ‘she had been attacked but wasn’t sure how or where’ portray the woman as a drunken mess who is not even sure where she was attacked. If this was a real case heard in court I can imagine the attacker’s defence arguing that if the victim was unable to recall where the attack took place then she may have been able to consent. Surely, any campaign which may lend itself to this interpretation has failed?

I appreciate what Nottinghamshire Police were attempting to do but I feel a different approach, not so centred on a Christmas theme, would have been much more effective.

The controversy surrounding the poem has resulted in people talking about rape, which in itself is a success, but with some phrases causing offence and leaving much to be desired perhaps Nottinghamshire Police should have thought twice.

Charlotte McIntyre

@CharlotteeM

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