On Rape Prevention Tips

[Trigger warning for rape culture.]

In the wake of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's victim-blaming anti-rape campaign, and much ensuing debate, Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory has written a piece taking a look at the nature and usefulness of "rape prevention tips" directed at women. I was interviewed for and am quoted in the article.

I do understand the impulse among decent people who have no desire to preemptively victim-blame to nonetheless share "rape prevention tips," really, I do. I even understand the urge to defend the need to share "general safety ideas" with women, during discussions of rape prevention. It is, of course, "common sense" that tips to avoid being mugged are equally as useful to avoid being raped.

But to reiterate the point I made to Tracy: Even the "rape prevention tips" typically offered under the umbrella of "general safety ideas" aren't really practical rape prevention advice. Millions of people get home alone after drinking every night in this country, and the vast majority of them aren't sexually assaulted, so is it actually meaningful advice to warn women against walking home alone, or is it just advice that sounds useful in the void of effective rape prevention (i.e. advice directed at predators, potential predators, and their peer enablers)?

The truth is, there's no such thing as a meaningful "rape prevention tip" for potential victims, because the only surefire way to prevent being raped is to never be in the same space as a determined rapist, over which we often have no control, which is why most survivors have been raped in a familiar place by a person known to them.

Real practical rape prevention is dismantling the rape culture, but that's a lot harder than telling a woman to take a cab to her door, as if everyone can afford cabs—and as if cabbies don't sometimes rape people, too.

Read Tracy's piece here.

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