TW - rape, victim blaming
I was taking a look at the RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, the main anti-sexual violence charity in the USA) website just now, and was really disappointed to find a page on the site called ‘Preventing Sexual Assault’ featuring such gems as:
Try to avoid dangerous situations:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you find a way to get out of a bad situation.
- Avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
- Walk with purpose — even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
- Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags, as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
Try not to allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know:
- Try to stay in a group. If someone you don’t know or trust asks you to go somewhere together, let him or her know that you would rather stay with the group.
If someone is pressuring you:
- Trust your instincts. Don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to. “I don’t want to” isalways a good enough reason.
- Be true to yourself. Do what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
- Communicate your limits firmly and directly. If you say no, say it like you mean it. Be loud and clear, and be firm — in body language as well as words.
In a social situation:
- Don’t leave any beverages unattended or accept drinks from open containers.
- Have a buddy system. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable, or if you are worried about your safety or your friend’s safety.
I mean seriously… Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags? So women get raped if they carry things in public?
And then there’s Communicate your limits firmly and directly. If you say no, say it like you mean it. Be loud and clear, and be firm — in body language as well as words.
This buys straight into the myth that men don’t realise they’re raping, and that the way to prevent rape is to teach women how to say ‘no’ properly. RAPISTS KNOW. They KNOW what they are doing. They set the situation up. They plan it. Even if the woman does say no, he’ll claim that he thought she meant yes, because everyone knows women say no when we mean yes, right?
This is terrible advice, it reinforces the stereotype that most rape involves being attacked outdoors by a stranger when we’ve known for decades that most rapists are partners, fathers, friends, brothers. It tells women to be fearful, and that it is our responsibility to protect ourselves from rapists. I really hope most member centres of RAINN are smarter than this and don’t dish out this kind of counter-productive victim-blaming advice to women who turn to them for support.
And now for some real advice on preventing sexual assault: