Finally…A Sexual Assault Campaign I Can Get On Board With!
Posted December 5, 2010
A new approach to sexual assault prevention education may be a sign that times are changing.
In one of my previous blog posts, Friends Don’t Let Friends Hook-up Drunk…Or Do They?, I questioned the target audience of contemporary sexual assault prevention initiatives. Copious sexual assault prevention education initiatives have focused efforts on educating women about how they can avoid being victimized. This seems contradictory to me–after all it is women who are often the victims of sexual assault, particularly during the college years (over 95% of sexual assaults in college include a female victim and a male perpetrator). Such programs caution women to avoid certain situations like parties, to avoid certain behaviors like drinking alcohol, and to consider the messages they may be sending through their clothing and attire. Although I can see the utility in promoting risk reducing strategies to women in order to help them reduce the risk of being in a situation which may result in a sexual assault, women should not feel in any way responsible for their assault, nor should they be made to feel that they could have prevented it. I am intentionally being very careful in the language I am using here–women can engage in certain behaviors which may help reduce the risk of a sexual assault occurring, but there is nothing a woman can do to prevent a sexual assault because only the perpetrator of an assault can prevent it, by not sexually assaulting. Most current efforts at sexual assault education tend to imply that the victim could have prevented her assault by engaging in a different set of behaviors and that feels a lot like victim blaming to me. Instead, I think sexual assault education should provide a focused attention on educating men about gender differences in nonverbal communication, about male privilege and patriarchy and about how alcohol can cloud their judgment, especially when trying to determine consent.
Out with the Old, In with the New…
On Friday November 19, the Edmonton police department and Sexual Assault Center in Canada launched a new campaign to address sexual assault prevention entitled: “Don’t Be that Guy.” Uniquely, their target audience is: Men! The police department and Sexual Assault Center indicated that the goal of their campaign was to warn young men that sex without consent is a crime.
According to Danielle Campbell, of the Edmonton police department, sexual assault campaigns have historically focused on informing women about how to protect themselves. However “a recent study out of the United Kingdom involving 18-25 year old males revealed that 48% of the males didn’t consider it rape if a woman is too drunk to know what was going on.” She followed up by saying, “those statistics should haunt you.”
A Good First Step…
I am really pleased to see that there are intervention initiatives which are focusing on male behavior with regard to sexual assault. I think the benefits of this campaign are twofold: first, it will help to raise awareness among men that sex without consent or when a woman is too drunk to give consent is rape, secondly, a campaign like this helps to raise awareness that men need to take responsibility for rape prevention. I think a campaign like this can be an initial step in shifting the current cultural climate which supports blaming the victim for causing her own sexual assault toward placing responsibility on the perpetrator. I hope that other sexual assault initiatives will start to follow in suit and focus more attention on providing education to men about rape prevention and promoting less of a victim blaming mentality.