Another school year is beginning, and that means another round of discussions over how to prevent sexual assault on campus. Sadly, rather than more emphasis on discussing real consent and ensuring that a partner does in fact want to have sex with you, we’ve once again returned to telling the women on campus all the lifestyle changes they should make in order to protect themselves from rape.
One Stanford student compared sexual assault prevention to remembering to put a bike lock on to ensure your ride isn’t stolen. “Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad?” Chris Herries told Bloomberg News. “We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk” that might make them targets of the criminal conduct of others, he said, although he followed that up with the idea that “no one should blame victims for being assaulted.”
“Ladies, just remember to use your U-lock to secure your vagina to the vagina rack in the quad and we won’t have to give men any more unfair responsibility,” responded Jessica Roy at NY Mag.
That sort of backward “victim protect thyself” approach isn’t entirely unexpected from a 22-year-old college student. What is somewhat shocking is how much of it seems to be simple parroting of their own college administrators. “Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave,” said Dr. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the former president of The George Washington University. “And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.”
The idea that women need to protect themselves while drinking has spread into its own marketing campaign, too. Four male University of North Carolina students have created a new nail polish that they claim will allow women to dip their fingers into their drinks in order to see if they have any date rape drugs hidden inside.
“While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection,” says the Undercover Colors Facebook page, according to Care2. “Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”
Is it “empowering” to feel like you need to test your drink before you take a sip? Is it empowering to be sure that you stay always hyper alert and ready to protect yourself from potential assault? Why is all of our focus on “empowering women to protect themselves” rather than make it completely clear that sexual assault absolutely in all situations will not be tolerated, and back that up with the fullest force of the law?
This “rape culture” mentality — that assault is something potential victims need to protect themselves from rather focusing on prevention with the potential assailants — leads to more survivors being intimidated out of reporting crime, which once more cycles into more assault. India has an even more drastic problem in actual violence against women who dare to report their assault to the police.
A new group is introducing a new kiosk that looks like an average ATM but in fact is actually a place where a victim of an assault can report her attacker without going to the police station, which has resulted in multiple deaths in the past.
“[The] iClik system is designed to be accessible for all Indians, whether or not they’re literate,” reports Think Progress. “Users can enter their complaints by recording them, typing them, or scanning a piece of paper. The machine sends the files to the closet police station, and each woman receives a receipt with information about how to track the status of her complaint. So far, it seems to be working. The Toronto Star reports that about eight to ten women use the machine every day.”
More reporting of crime could be a significant deterrent to ongoing attacks, and is a far more useful way to address assault than telling women to paint their nails to test their drinks. When it comes to really “empowering women” to protect themselves, India is at least advancing the idea that the focus should be on punishing criminals, not convincing women to change their lives in order to avoid any risk.
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