How To Prevent Rape

How to Prevent Rape

In researching my last post about domestic violence, I was reminded just how prevalent victim-blaming continues to be. I read an article that chastised Rhianna, stating that women (the writer was assuming that women are always the victims of domestic violence) are at least half responsible for stopping domestic violence.  Society often holds victims of violence responsible, at least when it comes to violence like domestic violence,  sexual assault and  child abuse.

Like I discussed in Trauma Stigma: We Are Only As Sick As Our Secrets, victim-blaming hurts us all. It is a message that keeps us all stuck in cycles of violence and misplaced responsibility. Only by putting responsibility where it really belongs, on those who commit acts of violence and abuse, can we start to break this cycle.

This is a message I repeat as often as needed in my work with trauma survivors: Abusers are responsible for the abuse. Rapists are responsible for rape.

When it comes to rape, so much emphasis is placed on what women should do to protect themselves. This feeds the illusion that if you just do/don’t do the right things you can be safe from rape.  And conversely, that if a woman has been raped she must have done something wrong!

A post at sexgenderbody reminded me of this piece I’ve see circulating for years, since at least 2005.  It is simple and powerful.  It speaks to this issue of responsibility and control. I cannot find any information regarding the author. If anyone knows the source, please fill me in!

How to Prevent Rape

A lot has been said about how to prevent rape. Women should learn self-defense. Women should lock themselves in their houses after dark. Women shouldn’t wear short skirts. Women shouldn’t leave drinks unattended. Perhaps they shouldn’t dare to get drunk at all.

Instead of further curtailing women’s freedom, how about:

If a woman is drunk, don’t rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don’t rape her.
If a women is drugged and unconscious, don’t rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don’t rape her.
If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don’t rape her.
If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you’re still hung up on, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in her bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in your bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is doing her laundry, don’t rape her.
If a woman is in a coma, don’t rape her.
If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don’t rape her.
If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don’t rape her.

If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don’t rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don’t rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching tv, don’t rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don’t rape her.
If your friend thinks it’s okay to rape someone, tell him it’s not, and that he’s not your friend.

If your “friend” tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there’s an unconscious woman upstairs and It’s your turn, don’t rape her, call the police and tell the guy he’s a rapist.

Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it’s not okay to rape someone.

Don’t tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
Don’t imply that she could have avoided it if she’d only done/not done x.
Don’t imply that it’s in any way her fault.
Don’t let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he “got some” with the drunk girl.
Don’t perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions. You can, too, help yourself.

If you agree, repost it. It’s that important.   -Author unknown
Kathleen Young, Psy.D.

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31 Responses to How To Prevent Rape

  1. Beckie says:

    Wow. I love this. It makes a good point.

  2. Anais says:

    Excellent. We should be educating our young MEN about how they need to behave toward women. I have always wondered about this blame-the-victim mentality.

  3. Augie says:

    Just heard someone say on TV a few days ago

    …in the legal realm, victims of rape are the only crime victims who are personally responsible for being chosen/hurt/raped/murdered.

    During domestic violence discussions I find it dunning in that no one bothers to notice that if the man who brutalized a woman did the same to some man on the street . . .there would be no discussion,…we would witness the Miranda & handcuffs at the speed of light, multiple cop cars guarding a forensic team and a perp walk to the nearest court hearing.

    In Murkistan it is absolutely amazing 80+ year old women asleep in their beds are responsible for the attentions of their rapists, right?

    What were they THINKING existing in a world while having multiple orifices?

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  5. kakoi says:

    “Don’t tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.”

    so let them be raped? let them walk out at 5am ? let them get drunk at a bar ?

    • Hi kakoi-

      I approved your comment/questions because it illustrates the exact points I was trying to make in this article. So, thanks! :)

      The issue the How To Prevent Rape piece and my comments are illustrating is that the onus for preventing rape has wrongly been placed on the potential victims. (See Men Can Stop Rape http://www.mencanstoprape.org/ for more information about a different approach).

      Only by putting responsibility where it really belongs, on those who commit acts of violence and abuse, can we start to break this cycle.

      That means, as a culture we need to shift the focus to holding rapists/abusers/perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means looking at the larger cultural issues that create (mostly) men who become rapists/abusers.

      It also means exploding the myth that there is some way to protect yourself from all possible abuse/violence as a woman. This myth is destructive because it contributes to victim blaming (if a woman is raped it is because SHE did something wrong).

      Language like would you “let” a woman do xy or z is really problematic to me! All adults have the right to live their lives in the manner they decide, including drinking in a bar or walking around at 5am if they choose. The consequence for that should not be rape. To continue to live in a world that expects women to have less freedom in these ways than men is part of the problem, not the solution, in my opinion.

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  10. Jennifer says:

    I’m really glad I stumbled upon this site as I was researching ideas (I had a couple bouncing around before settling on victim blaming in rape cases) on what to make my social art piece about. Victim blaming happens among a lot of crimes but I’ve seen it most prevalent in rape victims. Not only does the victim have to deal with the psychological side effects of the ordeal, they are taught, through society, that it was their fault in the first place.

    Well, I’ll be working on my designs/assignment for a “stop victim-blaming” piece and post once complete. Maybe some visual reinforcement to the victim blaming in rape cases can help spread the word. I can only hope. Acknowledgment is the first step to solving a problem.

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  12. Pat says:

    Victim-blaming is atrocious. Anyone who does it should be scorned in return. It’s more than clear that the rapist is to blame (rapist: one who violates). Especially when one hears about the meek, burqa-wearing women of the Middle East being assaulted; or children being seized and kept as a sex slaves; or the countless number of civilian rapes in every war. Being defenseless is the only requirement for being raped. Why people contrive appalling reasons for rape is beyond all sense. That being said, I don’t know if agree that rape can be attributed to any set of cultural issues, since rape seems to transcend all human cultures. To get at the roots of why rape happens, I think a more realistic discourse is required. One with our sordid evolution as its subject; one that targets things that are usually just presumed about human nature.

  13. I wanted to link to “How to Prevent Rape” from my article Demand Respect, Not Victim-Blaming” and I found it here on your blog as part of an article with the same message. Thanks for posting it!

    I did a web search for the list’s author and discovered that it was originally posted by a feminist blogger who went by Biting Beaver. Here’s an archive of the original post: The Rapist Checklist.

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  15. Pingback: Repost: How To Prevent Rape | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago

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  18. Jonathon Wallace says:

    I understand the point that of course victims are never to blame.
    But crime prevention is not blame.
    If I advise someone not to go to certain neighbourhoods after dark because it would increase their chances of being violently assaulted, I am not blaming them if they are assaulted. Any more than if I advise someone to lock their doors at night, to reduce the chances of somone breaking into their homes to steal, and they get robbed. I wouldn’t then say they are at fault for being robbed. I am just trying to help them not get robbed or assaulted in the first place.
    It’s irresponsible to suggest that people shouldn’t practice crime prevention.
    Further to that, it’s inan e to suggest that avoiding rape is simply a matter of telling all men not to rape.
    The reality is that the vast majority of men would not ever rape a woman.
    And the vast majority of the tiny fraction of men who would, will not ever care if I or you, or anyone else told them not to.
    It’s the equivilant of saying that the solution to preventing murder, is just to tell men and woman not to murder.
    As though that would ever stop the small number of people who do commit murder.
    As though the only reason that rape happens is because no one told the offenders not to do it.
    Rape can already result in mutiple life terms in prsion. It still happens. Why would simply asking someone not to do it prevent it happening if the threat of life imprisonment doesn’t.
    Once again, this has nothing to do with blaming anyone. It’s simply a matter of addressing reality. Crime happens despite our best wishes, including rape. Some people operate outside social norms and laws. Education and social welfare can help mitigate this, as can crime prevention.
    Simply saying :
    “If a woman is drugged and unconcious, don’t rape her.” will not help at all. It’s farcical and illogical to think that simply making this statement will do anything at all to help anyone.

    • Hi Jonathan-

      The point and intent of a piece like this is to raise awareness. If only it were this simple: tell rapists not to rape and they won’t!

      Real change is a complex process, but must in part begin by clearly understanding that victims of violence are not to blame. That is the point of this post.

      Changing rape culture overall? There is a lot of exciting work being done with bystander intervention programs and early intervention programs that seek to foster the development of empathy in general.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another thing I believe you should realize Jonathon, is that many men do not know that some of the acts listed above constitute rape. I have done work as a rape prevention educator on a college campus and often after presentations on rape and what is, and highlighting many of the points listed above, we get many awed faces from men saying that they did not know that when they did such and such or under x circumstance, That was rape. And the point for those statements being posted and as little as it could seem to you that it will not do much, I believe it can. If a man reads this and doesn’t know what types of situations constitute rape and then sees the situation marked on here, he might think twice next time. Rape and sexual assault are social issues that need the attention of the community, of both men and women, as survivors and as allies. It is okay to tell your friends, family and kids, to lock the door to be safe, to avoid certain areas at night, and your right even by doing this rape won’t be a 100% avoided. But if we also educate the other way around, it can help diminish the problem to an extent. By allowing the community to recognize these acts for what they are and being aware of them, in the future maybe things could be a lot safer.

  19. WilliamB says:

    A possibly true story, but very illustrative even if it isn’t.

    When Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel, there were a rash of rapes in Tel Aviv. Israel being a very small country this was of concern to the Israeli cabinet. One minister suggested a curfew for women. Meir was not satisfied with this measure. “Why should the curfew be for the women, when it is the men who are doing the raping? If there is to be a curfew, let it be the men who are curtailed.­”

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  21. Unconsented sex is inimaginable. It’s not love. :|

  22. karabelo says:

    I like this concept lol

  23. Anonymous says:

    Although I agree with the post, it’s not like rapists don’t realize that rape is wrong… they just don’t care. If you showed this list to an actual rapist I’m quite sure they wouldn’t start wallowing in sorrow at the atrocities they’ve committed. “Oh what?!?! I’m NOT supposed to rape? Dear me, I’ve been doing this whole thing wrong! Now that I know that I shouldn’t rape I’ll never rape again!” I’m sorry but that’s not how it works and quite frankly it’s a little insulting to assume all men have no control over their sexual urges and will just go around raping people at any given opportunity like this blog and “The Rape Checklist” seem to insinuate.

    • Although I have already said much of this in the comments above, it bears repeating. Clearly.

      The issue the How To Prevent Rape piece and my comments are illustrating is that the onus for preventing rape has wrongly been placed on the potential victims. (See Men Can Stop Rape http://www.mencanstoprape.org/ for more information about a different approach).

      Only by putting responsibility where it really belongs, on those who commit acts of violence and abuse, can we start to break this cycle. That means, as a culture we need to shift the focus to holding rapists/abusers/perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means looking at the larger cultural issues that create (mostly) men who become rapists/abusers.

      It also means exploding the myth that there is some way to protect yourself from all possible abuse/violence as a woman. This myth is destructive because it contributes to victim blaming (if a woman is raped it is because SHE did something wrong).

      The point and intent of a piece like this is to raise awareness. If only it were this simple: tell rapists not to rape and they won’t! Changing rape culture overall? There is a lot of exciting work being done with bystander intervention programs and early intervention programs that seek to foster the development of empathy in general.

      Nothing in this piece or my blog is insinuating anything about “all men”. I am curious about the lens you are reading through that took you there.

  24. PK says:

    That is a great post!

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