By Erika Davidoff
Jezebel recently featured a great article compiling ad campaigns on rape prevention from police departments across the world. Though some of them have messages that accurately blame rapists for rape, like Canada’s “Don’t Be That Guy” series and Scotland’s “This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me” campaign and website, an alarming amount still imply that it’s women’s responsibility to prevent rape by not drinking too much . While it’s perfectly reasonable for police to launch campaigns warning citizens about the dangers of drinking and impaired judgment during a season where alcohol is particularly plentiful, it’s unfortunate that this message is tainted by victim-blaming and misconception when it comes to rape.
These campaigns also reminded me about the messages regarding sexual assault that are disseminated across my college campus. This was the first year that my school required all incoming freshmen to take an online course on sexual assault, and though I’m not sure what the class told men, I know my women-only section was full of advice on how to avoid rape and prevent dangerous situations from happening. Flyers advertising defence courses for women—often specifically rape defence courses—are also prevalent on campus. I’m not against any of these measures and I think it’s important that women (and men!) watch out for themselves and their friends, especially when alcohol is involved. But it’s unfortunate that on campus I am so frequently reminded of our culture’s general opinion regarding rape—that it is women’s responsibility to protect themselves and prevent themselves from being assaulted. It’s simply rarer to see such messages targeted towards men.
I’m glad that this belief is slowly changing, as evidenced by the new campaigns Jezebel highlighted, and I want to commend the Vancouver Police Department and the Bristol police for their thoughtful campaigns. I hope that others follow suit, and that, eventually, the self-defence courses and rape-prevention advice targeted towards women will become a little less necessary.