Our original campaign

Zero Tolerance began as an innovative and striking poster campaign which declared that violence against women was never acceptable. During the six months that the campaign ran, Edinburgh was adorned with posters, billboards and banners which demanded that the public, politicians and the legal profession confront their own prejudices about men’s violence against women and take responsibility for eradicating it.

The Zero Tolerance campaign was originally conceived by Evelyn Gillan, Campaigns Officer for Edinburgh District Council Women’s Unit and her colleague Susan Hart. The posters were unique, rooted as they were in the experience of women and children. It followed a survey conducted by Edinburgh District Council’s Women’s Committee, led by Councillor Margaret McGregor, which revealed that safety was a major concern for women in the city.

Franki Raffles was the photographer chosen for the campaign, known for her social documentary work and her strong feminist ethic. In line with the principles of Zero Tolerance, only strong, positive images of women were used in the posters. This helped to convey the message that much violence against women is unseen, unheard and unspoken.

The Zero Tolerance campaign generated overwhelming interest and support at a local and national level. You can read about the political and media response here.

Posters were displayed on billboards and buses and distributed to shops, restaurants and pubs as well as local council venues such as libraries, community centres and council buildings.

The campaign was designed to run in four phases with separate posters.

child sex abuse poster

The first poster dealt with the extent of child sexual abuse: ‘By the time they reach 18, one of them will have been subjected to sexual abuse’. The image used deliberately challenged the prevailing view that child sexual abuse is a working-class problem and linked to poverty and unemployment. The definition of child sexual abuse was carefully chosen to make the point that all forms of sexual abuse of children - from flashing to rape - are damaging and part of a continuum of abuse.


From 3 to 93 poster


The next poster directly addressed the myth that only young, attractive women are subjected to rape and sexual assault: ‘From three to ninety-three - women are raped’. As with the child sexual abuse poster, the domestic image reinforced the message that most incidents of sexual assault are not perpetrated by strangers in dark alleys. The strapline – ‘Husband, father, stranger - Male abuse of power is a crime’ - highlighted the reality for women and children - that they are more at risk from men they know.

campaign poster

The third poster dealt with domestic abuse and again challenged the widely accepted myth that abuse only occurred in working class households: ‘She lives with a successful businessman, loving father and respected member of the community. Last week he hospitalised her’. Additionally, this poster identified emotional and sexual abuse as forms of domestic abuse.

no man has the right poster

The final poster linked all three previous posters and issues under a unifying slogan – ‘No Man Has the Right’. This gave a powerful message to women and children about the rights they have and, at the same time, to men about those they do not.

some men don't listen poster

In response to demand for a poster targeting and featuring young people, a fifth poster was produced which addressed the issue of sexual assault – ‘When they say no, they mean no. Some men don't listen’.

Zero Tolerance gained national media attention and requests for information and materials came from individuals and organisations throughout the UK and beyond. Before long, other councils wanted to duplicate the success of the Edinburgh campaign in their own local areas.

Today, Zero Tolerance remains one of the most influential and well-known campaigns on violence against women in Scotland. While there have been positive changes to public attitudes on some aspects of men’s violence against women, there is still a lot of work to do. New expressions of violence are developing or coming to light, including online abuse and ‘honour’ crimes. Some groups of women, such as disabled women, women in the sex industry, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and black and minority ethnic women, are more likely to be affected by men’s violence yet face extra barriers to accessing justice. Until we end all forms of violence against all women, Zero Tolerance will continue to campaign for change.

Further reading about the Zero Tolerance campaign

The power of Zero: how a bold Scotland-based campaign changed the world’s thinking about sexual violence.

Find out more about Franki Raffles on her website.

Read Maria’s blogs here.

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