It’s back to school season, and that means college women are being bombarded with the annual barrage of advice on avoiding sexual assault and rape. Colleges and universities have been holding potential victims of rape responsible for preventing attacks since they first recognized the problem. Well, the high rate of sexual assault and rape on college campuses is not the only problem – the misguided prevention efforts target the wrong group of people and have not reduced incidents of sexual assault or rape.
I am completely on board with Jaclyn Friedman, who argues in The American Prospect that we should be teaching men how to avoid being rapists, rather than policing young women and engaging in “ineffective pageantry” on prevention. As gender violence educator Jackson Katz says, “violence against women is a men’s issue.”
It’s not just about teaching men and boys that rape is wrong. Most people know rape is wrong. But they don’t usually know what constitutes “rape” and they don’t hold their peers accountable for it. They think rape is a strange masked man jumping out of the bushes onto a woman. They don’t necessarily think it’s rape when they lock their study partner in the room and force themselves on her while she cries. They think penetrating an unconscious woman is “taking advantage,” but they do not always consider it rape.
So-called “bystander intervention” is a very important component of effective prevention. Dr. John D. Foubert, of Oklahoma State University, began a sexual assault prevention program in the 90’s. He primarily focuses on changing men’s behavior; three years ago he began a women’s program as well. This article describes his techniques and the outcomes. How amazing would it be if every college campus did something like this? If you are in college or affiliated with one in some way, what does “rape prevention” look like on your campus (if there’s anything at all)?
In the meantime, I love these Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.