United Way: Provocative new ad campaign tackles the issue of statutory rape

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- United Way of Greater Milwaukee, in collaboration with Serve Marketing, is launching a provocative new public awareness campaign that will deliver a strong message to adults and teens – about the harsh consequences of statutory rape.

"The reality is that we still have a significant number of teens who are being victimized by adults in this community, and we need to talk about it. If both partners are not 18 and above, they cannot give consent for sexual relations, period. It doesn`t matter if they`re 17, almost 18. It doesn`t matter if they`ve given verbal, 'consent,' to their partner. Legally, that is not consent. Parents have to be empowered, need to have correct information, and they need to be able to talk to their children about these tough issues," Nicole Angresano, VP of Community Impact at United Way said.

According to the United Way of Greater Milwaukee, most babies born to teen moms in Milwaukee are fathered by adult men. It’s a problem that the city simply can’t ignore.

“This community cannot ignore statutory rape and sexual victimization if we truly want to impact teen pregnancy. Milwaukee will not accept statutory rape as status quo.  We will continue to elevate awareness of this issue until young people are able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships, between love and abuse, and between legal and illegal," Angresano said.

The powerful ads, placed near bus stops in Milwaukee show empty jail cells, as adults being fingerprinted and in the back of police cars. Headlines all start with the words, “If age is just a number,” then finish with statements like, “jail is just a room,”  “sex offender is just a nickname, ” and “this is just a free ride.” The copy goes on to read, “Sex with an underage teen is statutory rape. It’s also a felony you may want to think twice about committing.”

Viewers are directed to ItsStillRape.com for more information.

One of the most shocking and significant challenges the United Way-led Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative has faced over the past eight years is the link between Milwaukee’s epidemic teen pregnancy rates and statutory rape.

“For a lot of young teens girls, getting the attention of an adult man is flattering,” explains Serve founder and volunteer creative director, Gary Mueller. “We hope these ads make it crystal clear that when the relationship turns to sex, it’s rape.”

This effort comes on the heals of the group’s wildly successful interactive YouTube campaign called “Sex Myths” -- which launched last fall and got over 200,000 teens to take an interactive sex quiz online.

Bold campaigns like this have been an on-going tactic in the United Way-led coalition to fight to reduce teen pregnancy in Milwaukee for the past 7 years. The effort has recently been recognized as a national model for successful community collaboration.

In 2013, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Serve’s work were honored by the White House for its role in helping reduce teen pregnancy in Milwaukee by 50% over the past 6 years.