Rape Prevention Tips Aren’t Effective or Benign

There is a cultural predisposition that when a rape is reported in the news or discussed in any public forum, inevitably, someone (sometimes multiple someones) will decide to demonstrate the Just-World fallacy and want to discuss the actions, behaviors and appearance of the victim.  And while ostensibly claiming to only blame the rapist for raping someone, all choices made by the victim are evaluated for how “risky” they were.  These people will often say that they’re not saying the victim was responsible, per se, but that maybe we should make sure that women know what social rules and mores they should follow to prevent the absolute rarest of rapes, the stranger rape.  (As if women weren’t already deluged with these sorts of rules and guidelines; believe me, women already fear rape even if they don’t logically examine whether their fears are rational.)

Sickeningly, not even 11 year old girls are immune.  And after yet another example on Skepchick of how this sort of discussion can be derailed into “rapes are going to happen, so shouldn’t women be more careful” I wanted to make clear how vehemently I disagree with this shit.  Rape “prevention” advice is not only not helpful (because it doesn’t protect women from the most common type of assault), but it supports the idea that there are circumstances where rapes are more likely, more normal and implicitly,  more acceptable.

I want people to stand up and say that rape is never normal and never the victim’s fault.

The ease with which individuals attempt to ascribe some burden of responsibility to the victim of a rape makes me absolutely crazy. I would like to shed some light on why you cannot ascribe any degree of responsibility to rape victims without ending up encouraging the climate wherein rapes are excused.

The arguments of “prevention” always center on seeming like reasonable rather than extreme precautions to avoid an unpleasant result (i.e. rape). However, what these pieces of advice actually do is severely limit the choices, freedoms and dignity of women by tightening the confines within which we are allowed to operate. They create a framework of fear that we should live our lives in to avoid the unlikely event of a stranger rape.

It comes down to risk/benefit, how we all live our lives. Is there a risk in taking medication to cure illness? Is it worth commuting on the freeway to a better job even though driving is risky? Is it worth the incredibly small risk of stranger rape to pursue joys, individuality and life experiences as you choose? Or is it worth living in a cage of fear when you are far more likely to be hurt by those you know and love?

It is not.

To claim that rules governing behavior (just because you have the misfortune to be born into a less privileged group) to prevent the evil, free actions of another is the rankest kind of sexist crap. Women are not entitled to less of life’s fullness because of assholes.

Moreover, when you try to make these “prevention strategies” public, you signal to rapists and would-be rapists that those women who do not follow these rules are more vulnerable, more “reckless” and that these victims bear some burden for what you can do to them. That you will have more sympathy for their attackers because of the “temptation” to rape they experience.

When you promote these “rape prevention” tools, you are supporting the system rapists rely on to excuse their crimes. You are not being pragmatic.

So the next time someone starts to tell you about how women just need to take precautions, don’t let it slide.  Help break down the attitudes that allow this sort of rationalization and rape apologetics by speaking out.

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