Ladies, before you came to college, someone probably gave you three pieces of advice: Don’t ever walk alone at night. Never leave your glass unattended. And invest in some pepper spray.
Why were you given this advice? Because somehow it was going to protect you from harm—rape, more specifically. While these tips are not totally wrong, they take our focus away from the perpetrator’s responsibility to behave like a civilized human being, and they make it the potential victim’s responsibility to prevent an attack.
While it’s important to protect oneself, how much control does prey really have over a hunter? Why isn’t it that person’s responsibility to not rape you? If the perpetrator was required to be responsible for his actions before he committed them, maybe you would be able to enjoy yourself at a party instead of having to play watchdog.
Victims have very little say as to whether they would like to be raped or not, but perpetrators get to decide everything such as if, who, when, where, why and how they will rape someone. Nine times out of ten, this victim will be female, and ‘women ages 16 to 24 experience rape at rates four times higher than the assault rate of all women.’ The worst part is that according to the most recent National Crime Victimization Survey, 73 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows already. Remember those helpful hints Mom gave you? That 73 percent means that asking your friend to watch your glass or asking someone to walk you home after a trip to the bar might make it even easier for a perpetrator to attack you. That being said, I think we need some new tips.
Anne Bartow, at the Pace University School of Law in New York, shared these new and improved tips on a blog called ‘Feminist Law Professors’ (calm down, it’s just a title). To be clear, these tips respond to common scenarios of sexual violence that happen all over the world, and are not campus-specific. You can think of them as tips for life in and beyond college.
While I don’t suggest totally getting rid of your mother’s good advice, these tips have a little more kick to them:
Tip One: Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.
Tip Two: When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone.
Tip Three: If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them.
Tip Four: Never open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
Tip Five: If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, don’t assault them.
Tip Six: Remember, people go to laundromats to do their laundry; do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
Tip Seven: Use the buddy system. If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
Tip Eight: Always be honest with people. Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
Tip Nine: Don’t forget; you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake.
And finally, Tip Ten: Carry a whistle. If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident,” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.
In all seriousness, we do need to start thinking about how to break our society’s tolerance for violence, and while these tips are light-hearted, changing our attitudes about who is responsible for violence really might just save a life someday.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, or if you or another person is in an abusive relationship, please contact Women’s Services. Women’s Services is confidential, safe and there are real experts on the line who not only understand these issues, but who have experienced them in their own lives. 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 9 men have been in your shoes.
Don’t suffer alone.