Preventing Rape

Today’s rant began with a quote I saw on linked from Facebook.

If you’re promoting changes to women’s behavior to “prevent” rape, you’re really saying “make sure he rapes the other girl.” -@itsmotherswork

Personally, I think that’s a pretty powerful message. And then I read the comments…

The very second commenter responded:

If you’re promoting changes to children’s behavior to “prevent” traffic accidents, you’re really saying “make sure the other kid is hit by a car.”

The more I think about this, the more it pisses me off. It’s a piss-poor analogy that only holds up if you assume the driver is deliberately looking for kids to hit.


It’s not something that just happens. Do I want my daughter to have the knowledge and tools to try to protect herself? Hell, yes. But that doesn’t guarantee her safety, nor does it solve the larger problem.

A little further on, we got the argument that trying to teach people not to rape is a waste of time. After all, nobody ever read a sign that said “Rape is Bad!” and thought, Huh, I was all set to rape someone tonight, but now I won’t. Thank you, helpful sign!

If only we had information showing that education can be effective in reducing sexual assault and rape-enabling behaviors/attitudes, not to mention research on how debunking rape myths can increase bystander intervention, or that  “men who have peer support for behaving in an emotionally violent manner toward women and for being physically and sexually violent toward women are 10 times more likely to commit sexual aggression toward women.”

Then there’s the call for a “balanced” approach, the guy (and it’s almost always a guy) who wants to be reasonable and accepts that we can try to work with men, but still has to derail the discussion to make sure everyone understands how important it is to educate women about the steps they should take to protect themselves.

Balance? When you can’t find a single article or discussion about rape that doesn’t include comments on what she should have done to avoid it, or analyzing all of her “bad choices” that led to her being raped, or links to helpful tips of everything women must do to remain vigilant against rape?

We indoctrinate women at every step with rules they must follow if they hope to avoid being raped. But it’s like you see women as such foolish, helpless creatures that if we aren’t constantly telling them what to do and what not to do–if we devote even a fraction of that time and energy to educating men about rape and prevention–then they’ll all immediately start running naked through the streets shouting, “Here I am, world! Come and rape me!!!”

(Which the men will of course do, based on the other underlying assumption here that all those guys are just natural-born rapists, so there’s no point in trying to change anything.)

Rape prevention efforts have targeted women for ages. Yet sexual assault continues to be incredibly common. Weird, huh? It’s almost like putting the responsibility on women while failing to prosecute most rape cases, blaming women when men choose to rape them, buying into myths and excuses that minimize male aggression, and basically ignoring the vast majority of the people committing the crime isn’t an effective strategy for reducing rape.