Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: why “rape prevention” advice is dangerous nonsense

Following my blog on Caitlin Moran’s dreadful comments about how she lies in bed thinking about how easily she could rape women wearing high heels, I was surprised to see a comment thread where some agreed that she had a point. A similar pattern occurred later in the week, when I came across this ghastly, inexplicably Red Riding Hood-themed advice put out by Durham City Council, which informs women “Don’t make yourself vulnerable by getting too drunk”.

Once again, people were defending this as good advice. This was not just lengthy mansplanations–although I certainly did receive some lengthy mansplanations. Women, some of whom were feminists, saw nothing wrong with putting out this sort of advice. I’d hoped fervently that the archaic “short skirt” argument was a dead horse these days, but it is apparently alive and healthy. And so I cannot believe that, as 2012 draws to a close, and the world might end tomorrow, that I have to write a blog explaining why putting out advice like this is not just nonsensical, but dangerously nonsensical.

Put simply, rape prevention advice targeted at women shifts the responsibility for a rape from the perpetrator to the survivor. We should know by now that rapes don’t happen because the survivor is wearing a short skirt, or a pair of heels, or she has been drinking too much. This should go without saying. Yet implicit in all of this rape prevention advice is the assumption that actually these behaviours displayed by some women are related to them being raped, and if they would just not do these things, nobody would get raped.

And of course, this isn’t true. This rape prevention advice is targeted at a very narrow model of rape: the predatory stranger in the dark alley. The vast majority of rapes do not happen this way–it’ll more likely be a friend, a partner, or an acquaintance, and it probably won’t happen in a dark alley. By reinforcing stereotypes about rape, we help maintain rape culture which benefits greatly from the assumption that rape is only a thing which involves a stranger jumping out of a bush. Were we to take rape prevention advice to its logical conclusion, we would need to put out a campaign informing women not to talk to men, not to go to places where men might be, and for the love of God don’t have a relationship with a man. This is just as nonsensical as telling women to make sure they get a taxi home after a night out if they don’t want to get themselves raped.

The net effect of rape prevention advice, then, is further patriarchal regulation of women’s behaviour. You will notice that rape prevention advice tends to tell women not to do certain things which “good girls” shouldn’t do: wear revealing clothing, get drunk, be independent. A good example of this is the targeting of high heels: why aren’t concerned citizens sagely advising women not to wear flip flops, when flip flops make just as much noise and reduce mobility? You can’t even kick someone in flip flops! There are two major differences between flip flops and heels, and both say everything we need to understand about rape prevention advice. The first is that flip flops are gender-neutral, and the second is that they are not remotely “sexy”.

What rape prevention advice does is develop a climate of fear around something which need not be feared. Rape prevention advice delivers a threat of rape: unless the woman complies with a set of behaviours, and if she does not then it will be her own fault that she gets raped. It’s a potent threat, and it took me years of walking home drunk through dark alleys in silly shoes for the fear to fade.

Some people prefer to defend rape prevention advice by saying it is just sensible personal safety advice, which also applies for protecting oneself against mugging. This would only be true if this advice were also thrown at men, and it isn’t. It really, really isn’t. Likewise, rape prevention advice is not the same as telling someone to lock up their car, or hide their wallet. It is far deeper than that, and rape is very different from theft.

Comedian Nadia Kamil perhaps provides the best demonstration of the difference between rape prevention advice and how other crimes are dealt with in this short sketch, which I recommend you watch.

Transcript here. This sketch absolutely perfectly demonstrates how ludicrous it is for people to hide, not living their lives in the way they choose to because of the threat of drunk drivers. And of course, that is nonsense: we’ve all seen how society deals with drink driving in massive awareness campaigns informing people not to drink and drive. This is exactly how it should work for rape.

The current state of rape prevention advice is unhelpful. It targets the wrong people and manages to further muddy the waters in our thinking about rape. Rape is not about what the survivor has done to bring it upon themselves, but, rather what the perpetrator does to make it happen, and there are still very few instances of mass-scale campaigning to address this. Sure, there’s a few and they have their flaws (see Lambeth Council’s Real Men Know The Difference campaign for an example of this), but we need to build upon this model. Rape prevention advice should–and must–consist of one simple message: don’t rape people.


48 responses to “Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: why “rape prevention” advice is dangerous nonsense

  • Mel

    Rape prevention advice aimed at potential victims is not so very far from the old testament shite in Leviticus: “If a woman is raped and screams not, she shall be stoned till she be dead.”

  • MINCE PIES (@samuelpalin)

    I agree with your central point – that rape prevention advice normally emanates from a paternalistic, ‘traditional’ view of women, and that it is seldom helpful (particularly when professed by supposed prominent feminists like Moran).

    However, I would add that examining behaviours that predispose people to crimes, provided that it is clearly delineated from victim blaming, can be useful. A woman was never raped ‘because’ she walked down a dark street at night, but if dark streets are the problem, that informs how we deal with it. Likewise if being drunk is a massive risk factor for rape, then we should marshal for rape prevention (policing, CCTV, &c) around such situations. That’s very different to blaming drunk women for being raped. It may seem like the science of common sense, but there are so many popular misconceptions here that I don’t think we should take anything for granted.

    The most difficult question is: should data on what predisposes a victim to a crime be issued as public safety advice? I think it can be useful, within the context of a clear understanding that victims are never to blame for those crimes; such a context probably doesn’t exist at the moment in the case of rape.

    “Some people prefer to defend rape prevention advice by saying it is just sensible personal safety advice, which also applies for protecting oneself against mugging. This would only be true if this advice were also thrown at men, and it isn’t. It really, really isn’t.”

    I disagree with this – I’ve been given plenty of advice in my life as to how to avoid being mugged and assaulted. “Don’t engage them”, “keep your eyes down”, “lock the windows”, “make sure you put your cash away before you leave a cash machine”, etc. etc. I’m sure you’re right that it doesn’t happen in the same organised, national way, though. (Should it?)

    • stavvers

      THANKS FOR THE MANSPLANATION.

      • Bronny

        I really don’t think the patronising response was helpful, to someone who bothered to find and read your blog, and try and engage constructively.

        I’ve listened to, and used, advice since I was a teenager on walking confidently when alone at night, keys ready in my hand, etc etc. I didn’t take this as any form of blame, but just advice which might make me feel a little less worried (but still aware) when in what felt like a worrying situation (and that’s for muggings and abuse, not just rape). Feeling a little more in control at least is a good thing and having experienced muggings and drunken attacks I still think it was good advice.

        I appreciate that suggestions that women shouldn’t get drunk isn’t really helpful but if makes us put taxi numbers in our phones in advance, and keep an eye on friends so they don’t walk home alone (so they are not at risk of any crime, not just rape) it can only be a good thing.

        I’m not suggesting that the source of the problem is being addressed, or handled well when a rape does occur, but I’m getting more and more annoyed by this internal feuding between people who all call themselves feminists. And that’s just the rubbish I’ve read over this week following Moran’s article. And no, I’m not defending her before you post a patronising response to this as well, but can we not try and respond a little more positively to things we don’t like reading insteading of attacking each other? We’re all on the same bloody side after all.

        And mansplaining….really? Irritates the hell out of me, and no I’m not a man.

        • stavvers

          Let me ask you a question: if a parent tells a child that there’s a monster that lives under the bed and the monster will eat them if they don’t brush their teeth, and the child brushes their teeth, does this make it a good thing?

          If not, why are you continuing to defend these “rape prevention” messages which are damaging?

          Also THANKS FOR THE TONE POLICING.

          • Bronny

            Ooooh, very constructive response, thanks so much. It’s disappointing that people are expressing their opinions – politely and honestly – and you don’t really want to discuss them, just attack them. Really sad and frustrating.

            Your example is not relevant or helpful. I am not a child and the people producing the posters are not my parents. I have my own brain and can think for myself – something you don’t seem to like. I am not defending the rape prevention messages, I expressed an opinion that some can be useful because they make us prepare for for an unsafe world – and that is due to all sorts of crimes, not just rape, and not just crimes committeed by men. I’ve been attacked by a group of young girls and mugged by men. They are all people we need to live with and deal with. As I said, telling me not to get drunk is not helpful and that whole theme is insulting, but it doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t be aware of all problems we might experience.

            Your aggressive response, not wanting to discuss or explain or listen is not helping at all. You don’t want to listen, fine. You’ll just end up alienating those of us on the outskirts, who don’t feel very welcome.

            • stavvers

              Thanks for further tone policing and an attempt to derail.

              Monsters exist about as much as that rapist lurking in the bush, and paternalistic bullshit can come from people who aren’t parents, even when you might find the outcome desirable.

            • Bronny

              Attempt to derail? I was attempting to engage in a blog post. The aim of a blog is to encourage discussion isn’t it, not just to lecture?

              Fair enough, I’ll shut my stupid female mouth for not wanting to to accept blindly what you decree.

        • r2ph

          hi there
          while Im in the we should all try to work together camp.. I don’t believe for a single nano second that we are all on the same side. I have no clue who you are, your own experiences, background.. but life has made it very clear to me on many many occasions that we are indeed not on the same side…

          A judge who give 8 years to a man who set his wife on fire and then add… sure it could happen to anyone.. does not reflect same side to me…

          Women are asked in court what they drank when raped, what there were wearing when raped.. this is not on the same side.

          I could go on and on and on.. .but you must read the news.. you see it everyday. I get very tired of men telling me how to deal with rape, domestic violence and sexism on a daily basis…. I would like to see men deal with it actually. Deal with it by challenging their friends when they joke about rape, by responding to horrible comments posted to and about women on line and in person… we mainly get interaction on line explaining all the ways in which we are wrong…

          Feminist activism is very close to my heart… Im not sure what level of engagement you have with it.. but, I am really tired of men (described as feminist men) bringing their lived experience to a feminist platform (such as this one) to tell us how our lived experience is flawed…

          R2

          • Bronny

            I understand what you say and it saddens and angers me on a daily basis to see the way society treats crimes against women differenty. It’s something I experience, to some degree, on a daily basis because of the nature of my work. And this judgement, by both men and women, about whether someone was drunk, or wearing a short skirt, or flirting, utterly disgusting. Truly.

            However, I don’t think progress will be made by excluding men from the conversation. Looking at some of the men who respond to @everyday sexism, shocked that their own relatives and girlfriends experience such shit on a daily basis is very touching. You never know, seeing all the appaling resports from women of all ages just might help the man on the street see the problems we experience. I know it won’t address the problems at a higher level, but in my experience everything helps.

            Second only to the realisation that our life is not fair, and our treatment just, is the repulsion I feel from other women who attack each other because we dare to question the hard-core party line. We all have our own opinions and experience and I refuse to be told I am right or wrong. I want a discussion, not a lecture. We can all learn and share, but patronising people (and you have at least tried to engage) who dare to try and question will just repulse people from what is a vital cause.

            • r2ph

              Hey there.

              I agree that men need to engage.. there is an issue there in practice. E.G.. Men are victims of Domestic Violence. Women are victims of Violence. Women worked for many years to respond to the issue, set up safe places, worked to change attitudes, values and policy. Men are victims of DV (much lesser rate and a multitude of other issues).. men ask to be let in to women’s safe spaces. The safe spaces for women are at threat of closure…

              Yes men do need to be involved but how can they do that without taking their lived experience of … well being men to the table?

              I note you are upset about the response from Stavvers… I often organise safe spaces for women.. Every single time I arrange an event for women I get asked the same questions by men and by women. Its very typical to hear men say:” you don’t need safe spaces anymore you fucking dyke cunt”… nice…”come and be safe in mixed spaces”…mmmmmm is that how you normally invite someone to a party? My point here is, when we listen to the same tripe on a daily basis it becomes more and more of a challenge to deal with it in a way that works for every one.. Im talking for myself here of course.

              I hope that however you decide to mange how society makes excuses rape it works out for you.. I wish you the best. I now need to get on the local metro where Ive been assaulted and head in to town where I know what to expect from men at this time of year… and indeed all year round. We all get tired of the debate.. we are living the debate.. thats why I often get tired of men having all the answers, but refuse to accept when they are part of the problem. Wishing you the my very best.
              r2

            • Bronny

              One last response before I am ushered away.
              I don’t disagree with anything you have written about the issues of engaging men. I’m just a little confused since my point was that as a women I don’t feel welcome, on this blog or other places. I know all about the problems women suffer, I experienceany of them, I support most effrts to confront and s redress them. And yet my comments aren’t considered valid (the replies on here are an example).

              Am I the wrong sort of woman? And if I @ don’t feel welcome, or respected, why would men?

            • stavvers

              You just need to relinquish the belief that people will be nice to you when you’re wrong–like, for example, if you defend rape apologism. Learn, think, and think of the people who have been greatly and horribly effected by what you believe to be innocuous.

              And if you can’t accept that people might be cross with you when you’re advocating for things that are harmful, social justice movements probably aren’t for you anyway. Sorry.

    • narrativeeschatology

      Is there any evidence that walking home alone even heightens risk – surely the largest risk factor is dating men? Why, then, don’t we advise women not to date men? (Slightly rhetorical question.)

      Advice to people of both sexes on how not to get mugged doesn’t include a vast cultural subtext going back thousands of years saying “If you don’t listen to this advice, you’re a worthless whore who deserved it, and if you did, well, you’re probably still a worthless whore.” Just fyi.

  • glosswitch

    Thank you for writing this, and for linking to the sketch, which is great. This whole thing makes me so angry – I can’t believe the same discussion has to take place again and again and again. And far from being “common sense”, it’s damaging. I really liked this piece by Jill Filipovic in which she points out that acceptance of rape myths makes sex assault MORE likely:
    “In social groups where there is wide acceptance of rape myths – for example, the beliefs that acquaintance rape is a problem of communication or “mixed signals”, that rapists simply can’t control their sexual urges, that women often lie about rape, or that women invite rape upon themselves by their actions or manner of dressing – rape proclivity is higher. When men internalize rape myths, they are more likely to commit rape or see rape as more acceptable.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/18/nice-guys-commit-rape-conversation-unhelpful?INTCMP=SRCH
    So no, Mince Pies, this is not “public safety advice” – it’s rape apologism and it feeds into rape culture.

  • r2ph

    Mince Pies…

    “… rape prevention advice normally emanates from a paternalistic, ‘traditional’ view of women, and that it is seldom helpful”… is most often delivered to women by men and the system in which they operate… the CM mess upsets us because we hear it from men all the time.

    The most difficult question actually is,,, why aren’t men the central part of any rape prevention work? Im not dealing with all of your comments (there were a few and my you took your time to make the few points…) but policy is not based on your experience of crime prevention education… Women are told daily either in person, by the media, by friends and by MEN how to be safe, stay safe and are then blamed in the justice system when they are raped and assaulted.

    I bet you wonder why women get really pissed off with you and other men who comment about feminist issues… ? We live this everyday.. and when someone like you comes in to point out the obvious it get a bit old.. sorry if I sound a little snappy.. but, its been a horrible few weeks… rape, sexual assault, murder, cover up, police responsible for sexual assault units committing criminal acts, the BBC celebrating child rapists and covering it up too… everyday in the news… how does this effect your own experience of being raped?
    R2…

  • MINCE PIES (@samuelpalin)

    “The most difficult question actually is,,, why aren’t men the central part of any rape prevention work?”

    I don’t disagree that they should be.

    “Im not dealing with all of your comments (there were a few and my you took your time to make the few points…)”

    Sorry, but I feel it’s best to be exhaustive when dealing with such an emotive topic.

    “I bet you wonder why women get really pissed off with you and other men who comment about feminist issues… ? We live this everyday.. and when someone like you comes in to point out the obvious it get a bit old.. sorry if I sound a little snappy.. but, its been a horrible few weeks… rape, sexual assault, murder, cover up, police responsible for sexual assault units committing criminal acts, the BBC celebrating child rapists and covering it up too… everyday in the news… how does this effect your own experience of being raped?
    R2…”

    No, I can appreciate that it’s an incredibly emotive topic.

    I don’t think what I was saying was condescending – sorry if it came across that way.

    My point was only this: examining what makes victims victims isn’t always victim blaming. It can be very useful, too – for dispelling myths as well as making them. A friend of mine works as a forensic psychologist, and examining victim archetypes is an important part of her job.

    • gl205

      Well, women are most likely to be rape victims in their own homes, with their intimate partners or acquaintances. So, is that helpful? Should we tell women to stay out of doors at all times, since it’s safer there?

  • r2ph

    Hey there

    Thanks for the reply.. not much time or energy to engage with this.. as the title of the blog states…

    Sadly men make women experts in all sorts of violence.. we are the archive.
    R

  • oddbodd13

    Does rape prevention advice have to be about patriarchal controlling of women, or victim blaming?
    It seems to me that if anyone is to issue advice to women about rape prevention, there will always be an argument that it’s “blaming the victim”. Is it? Or is it more about offering advice to prevent vulnerability?
    It would be good advice to tell someone to lock their door to prevent burglary, but that doesn’t mean that the houseowner should be blamed for the burglary. No more than telling a woman to keep her eye on a drink to stop it getting spiked is blaming her for rape.

    Nor does it always have to be about patriarchal control of women. For a start, much rape prevention advice could be used for men (if there’s such a risk in any locality) as much as it could be for women. Secondly, just because a piece of advice might be something only (or normally) applying to women (like the wearing of high heels, though I must say I find Moran’s analysis too simplistic), that doesn’t mean it’s about controlling women.

    I know I risk being called for mansplaining, but frankly, that’s as ridiculously sexist a term as I’ve ever heard, as it suggests (even if it’s not intended to do that) that a man cannot have a valid opinion on a subject. So say that if you like, but it shouldn’t invalidate my argument.

    • stavvers

      Ooh, congratulations for derailing about mansplaining, and also, once again faultily comparing rape to theft. No points for you.

    • not a dog (@shhimacat)

      No, “mansplaining” is not “ridiculously sexist”, for the same reason that “cracker” is not “ridiculously racist.” If you don’t get this, then my goodness are you not ready to partake even a little in these discussions.

      Feminism is a movement by women, for women. If women need your input, by golly they will ask you. Until that day comes, how about you just sit and read and try to do what they ask of you.

    • bezukhova

      “Does rape prevention advice have to be about patriarchal controlling of women, or victim blaming?
      It seems to me that if anyone is to issue advice to women about rape prevention, there will always be an argument that it’s “blaming the victim”. Is it? Or is it more about offering advice to prevent vulnerability?”

      So you’re just ignoring the fact (as previously stated several times in this thread) that women are far more likely to be raped in their own home, or in the home of a friend or acquaintance, by someone they know, than in the street by a stranger? Drinking, wearing high heels, wearing revealing clothing, etc. are NOT MAJOR RISK FACTORS FOR RAPE. Knowing and trusting men is a much, much higher risk factor. This was addressed in the blog post above, and Stavvers has addressed it time and time again in other posts and articles, so I really don’t see why you’re insisting on ignoring it.

  • oddbodd13

    I’m not after points. Rape and theft are indeed different, but that doesn’t mean that the same logic cannot be applied in terms of prevention advice. If you think differently, at least please try to tell me why, rather than just telling me that my argument is faulty.

    • stavvers

      Now, I hope you’re not going to make a rape survivor (who has also had a few things nicked) explain exactly why these things are incredibly different, and just take my word for it that if you’ve ever personally experienced sexual violence, you’ll know the different, and if you haven’t, you won’t understand it and you’re best placed to be quiet.

      • oddbodd13

        As I’ve pointed out, I know they’re different. But I’ll try to make my question more clear. Why is giving rape prevention advice “blaming the victim”, whereas giving burglary prevention advice not (or do you think it is)?

        • TonyC (@tonycollinet)

          Because rape prevention advice always consists of advice that restricts the freedoms and rights of women (Don’t dress this way, don’t drink this much, don’t walk alone, but don’t get in a taxi alone, don’t go to his place, etc etc etc.). And in the end NONE of this significantly affects a womans risk of being raped (it really doesn’t – there is plenty you can read to learn why). The only advice that would work is “never be in the same place with men”

          On the other hand, burglary prevention advice (lock the bloody door and put the alarm on) does not significantly restrict anyone’s rights or freedoms and even if it did it would be universal restriction – not aimed at any one group. Further more – it generally does have a beneficial effect.

          Finally as stated further down there is rarely “don’t rape” advice.

    • Gary

      I think the problem here is that the analogy is flawed. It’s all well and good that we get given advice on how to protect ourselves against muggings and theft, but there is also a *very* clear message of “Do not steal” and “Do not mug people” throughout society.

      The problem here is that, for all of the well-meaning advice given to women on how to avoid being attacked, we need to start with the much simpler message of “Do not rape”.

      • stavvers

        Thank you for actually understanding there’s a huge distinction here🙂

      • quiteirregular

        Absolutely. And I always think this is a particularly flawed analogy, since granting the premise from which the analogy starts “women’s bodies are like objects” sounds dangerously like beginning with the opinion of, well, rapists…

        • Latramontane

          Also, consider:
          1) that I can avoid having my jewellery stolen by leaving it at home;
          2) that if I forget to leave it at home, I can hide it and a thief will assume that I have left it at home because (s)he cannot see it.

          Compare my vagina:
          1) I cannot take it off and leave it at home;
          2) hiding it under loose or long clothes will NOT fool a rapist into thinking that I have left my vagina at home, because he knows it to be an irremovable part of me.

          So the theft prevention tip of “hide it” CANNOT POSSIBLY EVER prevent a rape, proving again that theft prevention and rape prevention tips are not at all equivalent.

    • not a dog (@shhimacat)

      Hey bud if nothing else how about you stop comparing women’s bodies to property HOPE THIS HELPS *crumbles up a bong hit of mens tears, flies away on a unicorn made of misandry*

  • Vicky

    Quite simply, whether I am drunk, sober, barely or fully clothed, wearing heels or wellington boots, I don’t expect to be raped nor do I expect any of those things to factor in or whether it will happen or not.

    There is no such thing as rape prevention bar staying in your own home with the doors locked. If a burglar was to break in and I’m in my underwear am I asking for it? No.

    • Tori

      There is no such thing as rape prevention bar staying in your own home with the doors locked.

      And hoping that one’s potential rapist — such as a boyfriend, husband, or father — does not also have access rights to the house. (Not disagreeing with you, just adding.) I mean, I realize that not everyone thinks about partners or family that way — but some people have to, and that is the part that is fucked up.

  • Kellie-Jay Keen

    I’ve always thought my personal safety when walking at night, or not as the case may be, was about being attacked (ie mugged) not raped. Perhaps the meeja could start with some actual storylines in soaps about real rape that happens all of the time and not stranger danger. Likewise when I speak to my children about being attacked or abused I start with the idea that anyone can be the bad guy and it is more likely to be someone they know that oversteps boundaries, rather than a stranger.

    • alice rooney (@discodamage)

      Erm,can we have a little think about possibly not setting up an opposition between ‘stranger danger’ and ‘real rape that happens all of the time’? ‘Stranger danger’ rapes happen. They are ‘real’ They are vastly less common than rape in which the perpetrator is known to the victim, but they are, you know, an Actual Thing. It would *really really suck* if those women had to deal not just with the perpetual recurrence of this argument re: allotted responsibility for their experience, but also the suggestion that their rape is some sort of completely imagined urban myth. What I’m trying to say is, check yourself before you wreck yourself, or something akin to that.

      • stavvers

        What we’re talking about, though, is the undue prominence this is given, when in fact it encapsulates a tiny proportion of rapes (wherein, as you rightly identify, the responsibility is shifted on to the survivor).

  • + Yvonne Aburrow (@vogelbeere)

    Imagine if the campaigns aimed at reducing drink-driving were not aimed at drink-drivers, but ONLY at the people who might be run over by the drink-drivers. Because driving while drunk is an inherent aspect of the nature of drivers; they just can’t help it. So the rest of us will just have to learn to get out of their way. It’s all our fault if we can’t get out of the road quick enough to avoid the drunk drivers weaving all over the place, because it’s in their nature to get drunk and run people over.

    That is what aiming rape prevention advice ONLY at women is like.

    Even if I walk naked down the street, at midnight, wearing high heels and drunk as a skunk, I have not consented to sex unless I actually say yes. So if someone had sex with me, it would be rape.

    Yes I would be silly to expose myself to the risk, since I live in a rape culture, but I would not have actually caused the rape by behaving in that way, and I ought to be entitled to the full protection of the law. Whereas what would actually happen is that the court would examine my previous sexual history, look at my behaviour, and dismiss the case.

  • walnutbus

    [comment moderated due to being nothing but derailing and a personal attack. Now really, why does nobody read the comment policy?]

  • walnutbus

    [continuing attempts at not getting it, moderation martyrdom, someone still hasn’t read the comment policy]

  • Brooke Magnanti

    More than 7 in 10 reported rapes are of an assailant who is known to the victim: partners, friends, acquaintances, etc. And that’s reported rapes – it is widely accepted that rape is under reported, moreso in instances of ‘date rape’ or ‘acquaintance rape’ where if there is an absence of witnesses or external injuries it frequently becomes a he-said she-said issue.

    So we can assume, no matter which way we view it, that the VAST MAJORITY of rapes are not strangers leaping out of bushes on a dark night attacking girls walking home.

    Surely then we can all agree that if the majority of awareness-raising focuses exclusively on potential victims of a minority of cases, then the advice to not wear short skirts/walk home in the dark/whatever is not going to be useful in getting the crime rate down, nor in helping the majority of victims. We need a new message, one that actually reflects the reality of the crime AND speaks to the parties with ultimate responsibility: potential rapists.

    To my mind the most effective thing I’ve seen so far is that advert with the young couple and the boy is yelling at himself through the glass. It makes uncomfortable watching – and is good in terms of both showing an instance of the crime that is far more common than strangers leaping out of bushes, and puts the responsibility as well as the awareness-raising clearly on the party committing the crime.

    • stavvers

      Yes, that one’s another good start, although IIRC, it’s quite graphic and could prove to be triggering for some. The Lambeth one I linked in the post above is similarly a good attempt, although the “real men” message needs to die, as it’s SO problematic for men.

      • Brooke Magnanti

        Yes, good point. What’s the best way to get the seriousness of it across, without triggering people inadvertently?

        • bezukhova

          I don’t know, it’s a really difficult one. I’ve not actually seen the advert you refer to above (I don’t have a TV so a lot of ad campaigns pass me by), but I do remember getting incredibly upset by some of the road safety adverts, which can be quite grapic. I understand why they are designed that way, but it can be a bit much sometimes, and when it comes to sexual assault and rape, it is *so* important to try and avoid triggering survivors. I don’t know the answer to your question – I just wish more people were asking it, thinking about it, debating it.

  • narrativeeschatology

    Suggested mod policy – comparing rape to theft (and not a very serious crime against the person) gets disemvowelling?

  • + Yvonne Aburrow (@vogelbeere)

    Have you seen this? It debunks the myths and gives the facts about rape and sexual assault. http://t.co/MwjpIwQ1

  • Ben

    I found this article more persuasive the further I read it. It is true that most sexual (and other) assaults are committed by people we trust rather than drooling strangers. It would be a shame to throw the drooling stranger advice out with the its-your-fault-for-wearing-heels bathwater, but there’s not denying the fact that a campaign that focused on the source and cause of most rapes would be more constructive. Sadly, as is just as true with child abuse cases, it’s easier for the public to cope with slutty women or sex crazed monsters than the fact that sexual predators are just normal people who have abnormal minds.

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