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'There Will Be No Apology' Over NHS Rape Posters - Despite 43,000-Strong Petition

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The government has refused to apologise over a controversial anti-drinking poster which suggests rape is the fault of the victim because the campaign "is no longer used".

Although the posters were part of a "Know Your Limits" drinking campaign which ran between 2005 and 2007, some surgeries and clinics are still displaying the offensive message.

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The poster, which was released in 2005

Jack May, a student at Cambridge University, recently launched a petition asking NHS England to tell its surgeries to pull the posters. Despite garnering more than 43,000 signatures, the government is refusing to comply.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told The Huffington Post UK: "This campaign is no longer used. Posters have not been in stock, or available on websites for several years.”

"The problem is an issue for surgeries and hospitals displaying the poster. If they are still up after six years they should not be because the campaign has been refreshed since.

May was first alerted to the posters after a tweet from a Nottingham-based blogger:

"I was horrified," May explained to HuffPost UK. "But I didn't think that a lazy retweet would go far enough, so almost on impulse I started the petition. Thankfully I've never been personally affected by rape or sexual assault, but the fact that I know so many who have come into contact with it, or come close to being victims shows that we really do suffer from a rape culture, and that's not okay."

The student says he is aware the posters are also being displayed in an Oxford college, a surgery and a sexual health clinic.

Katie Russell, a spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales told HuffPost UK:

"Not only is the image on this poster harrowing and potentially triggering for the huge numbers of survivors of sexual violence who will inevitably see it, but its central message is also misguided, damaging and insulting.

"The Government should acknowledge that the production of such a poster was never appropriate in the first place, and give a strong message that any remaining copies should no longer be displayed."

The Department of Health added: "This campaign is no longer used. Posters have not been in stock, or available on websites for several years."

Although the link to the Home Office's downloadable poster now displays a "this page cannot be found" message, the poster can still be downloaded from other sites.

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May is planning to present Whitehall with a 10-point manifesto along with delivering his petition in response to the NHS' "it was a 2005 campaign" explanation.

"The government thinks saying it was a past campaign is a good enough explanation. But it isn't.

"I found the poster particularly offensive because it is sanctioned by a respected and trusted authority. For the NHS to abuse its trust to promote a harmful agenda of victim blaming is really unfair.

"Implicating victims in their own rape is completely unacceptable - rape is always the fault of the perpetrator, and no matter what/whether the victim has been drinking, what they are wearing, what the perpetrator thinks may have been implied, rape is never their fault. We need to create a culture of honest, open consent, with all blame landed firmly on the shoulders of those who don't play by the rules of consent. This poster hinders much more than it helps."

The student says he has been "astonished and heartened" by the support he has received.

"I was hoping that between friends and support through social media I might manage a few hundred signatures, which would serve to provide democratic bolster to a personal letter to Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May.

"The fact that thousands and thousands of people have felt the same way I have about this poster, and have chosen to support it themselves, is absolutely fantastic, and makes the case so much stronger."

Correction notice: HuffPost UK stated in a previous headline the NHS refused to apologise for the posters, when in fact it was the Department of Health that had refused to apologise.