Problems With Sexual Assault Prevention Tips
By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
I’ve been seeing a lot of these types of lists (seen on the left and below my 7 point critique) floating around Face Book. Some have good info but many don’t take in to account a lot of things:
1. Many tip lists are based on blaming the person who was assaulted. It’s usually called “victim blaming”; something I don’t like because the person might identify as a survivor. And the responsibility for an assault not to occur is left on the person assaulted.
2. Most tip lists don’t take into account that most sexual assaults happen by people known to the person assaulted: relative, friend, boss, teacher etc. Most tip lists refer to strangers assaulting people, most often women.
3. Most tip lists are geared toward straight (heterosexual) communities. The tips often mention men assaulting women. They don’t take into account that sexual assault happens in straight and LGBTQ communities and that peoples of all genders and races assault and are assaulted.
4. Sexworkers are never taken into account in these mainstream tip lists. Tips are geared toward peoples deemed contributors to society which sexworkers are not. And sexworkers are seen as there for the taking. Sexually assaulting a sexworker is seen as an oxymoron in this twisted society.
5. Sexual assault tip lists exclude those who are incarcerated. Seventy-thousand sexual assaults happen every year in American prisons, 60% of which happens via guards assaulting inmates. These tips are geared toward those who are not incarcerated.
6. Such tip lists hint around consent as opposed to naming it, and if they do they lack a break down of what consent is. And sometimes they use the word “No” instead of “YES!”.
7. Tip sheets never name Rape Culture, or acknowledge that we live in one, or the need for educating people about Rape Culture.
Lets look at this list which is aimed at the attacker with a tongue and cheek tone that has some problems.
I don’t have all the answers and I might have missed, or not thought of, many things. If you have any thoughts please comment below the post or email me.
1. Don’t put drugs in peoples drinks in order to control their behaviour.
This can happen at a club, a bad date, or by a long time friend or relative. So, I think #1 is OK.
2. When you see someone walking by themselves leave them alone!
Years ago when talking with some members of Toronto Native Youth, a group of politically active Native youth in Toronto, I learned about a very important book, The Will To Change by Black feminist theorist bell hooks, and some male ally tips, one tip being similar to #2.
We talked about us being men of colour and how when we walk at night we cross the road if a woman is walking on the sidewalk alone. It was not prevention but allyship. We cross the road so as to not have the woman feel unsafe. Same goes if we are on the subway; we move to another car or to the end of the car if we are alone with a woman on the subway at night.
The problem with tip #2 is that it again points to the scenario of a stranger assaulting someone on the street and ignores the fact that most assaults happen at home, at work, at school etc. by someone the person being attacked knows.
3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them.
This tip again points to the stranger scenario. If sexual assault happens in, or near, a car it is most likely to be on a date whether business or personal, or on a family trip with a relative, or ride given by a neighbour, or a school bus driver…
The side of the road attack is real but it happens more on TV shows like Criminal Minds and in movies.
4. If you are in the elevator and someone else gets in, don’t assault them!
This has a little bit of the stranger element to it but it’s also a real thing. Many people are assaulted in their home residence (building) elevators by neighbours and building employees.
5. Never open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
This is victim and survivor blaming. It puts to onus on the victim and survivor leaving an entry for their attacker even though it is aimed at the attacker.
6. Use the buddy system! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
This is total bullshit that is based on a buddy system where people are supposed to always be on guard as opposed to society educating peoples about, and challenging, rape culture.
7. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
I’m not a fan of the humour being used here but it’s bang on. This is one of the most realistic scenarios: a “friend” raping someone.
8. Dont forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they’re awake!
What this is not saying is that many longterm partners rape their significant other while they are sleeping. NO consent is rape whether you are married or in a long term relationship.
9. Carry a whistle. If you are worried you might assault someone accidentally you can hand it to the person you’re with so they can blow it if you do.
The carry a whistle advice is again based on leaving the responsibility on the person being attacked as opposed to teaching people about, and challenging, rape culture.
10. DON’T ASSAULT PEOPLE!
Below is a video of an essay about rape culture that I recently presented at a conference: