Rape prevention often focuses on what women can do to avoid being raped. This is a problem. Women shouldn’t have to change anything about their behaviour or appearance out of fear of being raped. Women shouldn’t have to fear being raped period. Besides, trying to figure out what women can do to avoid getting sexually assaulted isn’t even an effective way of preventing sexual assault, it turns out.
In Canada, where I live, the crime rate in general is going down, but the rate of sexual assault has steadily increased year by year over the past decade, breaking the general trend. This changed in 2011, the rate of sexual assault dropped by 10%. It is believed that this drop is due to an ad campaign aimed at potential perpetrators of sexual assault.
The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign started in the province of Alberta and has since spread around the country. Posters like the one above were put in bars and clubs and busses in an attempt to shame men away from sexually assaulting women. The fact that they needed to be shamed away from such acts in the first place is a whole other conversation that I won’t get into here. But really, this was a ground breaking campaign. This was one of the first times that the perpetrators, rather than the victims, were being focused on. There is a saying, “only men can end rape,” and that is the general idea of the campaign. Instead of victim blaming and asking what she could have done differently, this campaign aimed at subverting the traditional masculine “go get some” mentality and it worked.
In the year that the campaign first started, sexual assaults dropped in Vancouver by 10% as I’ve already said. That’s huge considering that between 2009 and 2010 sexual assaults increased in the city by 29%! So the focus needs to be on potential assaulters in the future. We need to stop slut shaming and victim blaming immediately, not only because they are both terrible and unloving things to do but because they don’t even accomplish what they are misguidedly trying to. Trying to figure out what women can do to not get raped doesn’t work. Teaching men about consent and creating a culture of shame around rape does. It makes a lot of sense.
“Don’t Be That Guy” is trying to create a new idea of masculinity, one in which one’s manhood is contingent on how much he respects the boundaries of women not how little. It’s a remarkable campaign that I hope is only the first step in a new focus on rape prevention.
sex without consent = sexual assault