'Beyond disturbing' anti-assault billboard sparks controversy after resurfacing

Nadine Carroll
·4-min read

WARNING - Content deals with sexual assault and might be triggering for some readers: A billboard campaign targeting incest and sexual assault has raised questions four years after it was removed.

The billboards depicted a scared girl with the message “Getting drunk is never an excuse. She’s your daughter, not your date. We’re calling incest out” and a free number to call Refuge House, a not for profit organisation active in eight counties of North Florida providing services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Originally posted in July 2016, screenshots of the billboards began circulating Monday on Twitter and Facebook.

“Billboard in Inverness, FL reminds dad’s not to drunkenly rape their daughters,” one person on Twitter captioned one of the images.

A 2016 billboard that reads 'Getting drunk is never an excuse. She’s your daughter, not your date. We’re calling incest out'
Originally posted in July 2016, screenshots of the billboards began circulating on social media. Source: Twitter

‘Is this real?’

The bold message had many on social media questioning if the billboard was real.

“Is this a real billboard? If so it’s beyond disturbing,” one person responded.

“This isn’t real, right? I mean, how many times did they have to hear ‘I was drunk’ as an excuse for incest in order to find it necessary to put up a billboard? This seems extremely specific,” another person commented.

Four years ago the billboards raised similar questions leaving Refuge House defending the message.

‘It is a massive problem’

Local outlet the Tallahassee Democrat published statistics that claimed when a person is arrested for sexual assault on a minor there is a 90 per cent chance that person is known by the victim, with alarming odds that four in ten perpetrators are family members to the child.

“This is a very silenced and hidden form of sexual predation,” Meg Baldwin, executive director of Refuge House told the outlet at the time.

The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence who funded the campaign said it was designed to combat the stigma around a common issue in the area.

“People don’t want to talk about it. I’ve worked 30 years in this profession and it is a massive problem,” Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence told the Tallahassee Democrat in 2016.

A 2016 anti-incest campaign billboard
'it is a massive problem' a resurfaced 2016 anti-incest campaign has raised questions on social media. Source: Refugee House

Reaction from social media in 2021 seemed to indicate people were still unaware of the problem.

“That's crazy. Why would you need a billboard to tell you not to rape your child?” one person asked.

“I feel like that's something that shouldn't need to be said. If that's a problem in your area so bad that you need a billboard, your area needs a lot more than just a billboard,” another person suggested.

Others argued the billboard was highlighting common knowledge in the state.

“It’s a lot more problematic than people want to admit... and alcohol’s not the real issue here. Just ask any social worker or child psychologist,” one twitter user commented.

“Too many things to say about this, but this is where we are in Florida, in case you wondered how the battle for being female is going,” one woman tweeted Tuesday.

A few people, meanwhile, critiqued the phrasing of the message.

“It seems to suggest that's it's okay to rape your date when you're drunk, just not your daughter,” a person replied.

Refuge House and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence told the Tallahassee Democrat they were pleased with the results of the 2016 campaign at the time, reporting they had nine sexual assault victims come forward in one county within a month of launching the billboards.

“We ask so much of survivors to find us. But it is up to us to be more proactive to them, to let them know that what we’ve got is worthwhile, instead of leaving that huge burden on the shoulder of the survivor to take those steps alone,” Ms Baldwin said.

“It’s difficult to talk about but needs to be,” Ms Dritt added.

“You can’t intervene early if you don’t know about it. And lack of early intervention has long-term consequences.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au

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