Getting it Right when it Comes to Anti-Rape Campaigns
Too often campaigns that are ostensibly aimed at reducing the incidence of sexual assault come off terribly wrong. They imply that victims to are to blame because if they had just been “SMART” they could have avoided any problems. Instead of putting the onus on men not to rape, they tell women to be afraid, to limit their actions to avoid rapists even though, as Rebekah Carrow so eloquently wrote earlier this week, women already plan their everyday lives according to the rules of fear. So it was surprising to find an ad in the February issue of Go Belfast that gets it right. (I’d say pleasantly surprising, except that the need for such an ad in the first place makes such pleasure impossible.)
The ad unequivocally places the blame for acts of sexual assault on the perpetrator, and sets the standard for consent as something active. It must be given; it is not something that can be assume in the absence of denial. And it must be given freely meaning without coercion or pressure of any kind. By referring to “any act that’s in any way sexual”, the ad makes clear that there is no point before which unwanted sexual action are acceptable. The website mentioned in the text gives a more detailed definition and specifically notes that rape is not only something strangers do.
What may well be most important, however, is the ad does not stop by establishing that sexual assault is wrong and illegal. It provides resources for victims to get help. No matter how well-phrased or right on an ad is, after all, it isn’t going to stop every rapist. To let victims, including those who may still be in a relationship with an abuser, know that assistance is available can be enough to help them begin the process of living their lives again—and it may mean preventing the repetition of abuse.
What are the best campaigns against sexual assault you’ve seen or participated in?