Amanda presents some Real Anti-Rape Advice

Inspired by threads here on “Alas” and on her own blog, Amanda has written an excellent post about victim-blaming and rape, including some well-researched advice:

*Austin is a relatively peaceful city, crime-wise, but we have an abnormally high rate of sexual assault due to being such a young city. (Last time I checked, our average age is 28.) As such, my friend who works in forensics spends a great deal of her time collecting evidence on sexual assault cases. I asked her once what she finds rapists look for most in victims and she said vulnerability–crossing your arms, looking away, hunching the shoulders and other body language that says that you are unsure of yourself. Her advice to women to avoid rape is to walk down the street, into rooms, everywhere like you own the place. Meet people’s eyes and let them know you know what they look like. She didn’t mention any specific places or situations to avoid.

*So, hard as it may be to believe, the best way to empower women to defend ourselves against rape is to teach girls not to be afraid of men and to be self-assured. If we keep telling girls that certain places or situations are off-limits, when they enter those situations they will immediately adopt the posture of a shrinking violet and attract rapists.

*But the #1 thing the books I read on the subject and my friend emphasized is that there is only one stance that should be taken when regarding victims–unwavering support and sympathy. BSU members who questioned victims go out of their way to support the choices made by the victim at the time of the crime–there were no lectures on being naive, and in fact choices that are generally characterized after the fact as somehow inviting rape are praised for what they are–being kind, being friendly, and being free. Rape is so prevalent that it leads to what hate crime expert Donald characterizes as a “massive dead-weight loss of freedom“. Telling a woman to curtail her freedom of movement and association due to rape is and will be taken as assisting the rapist in his job of terrorizing us.

That’s just a small sample – you should read the whole thing.

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78 Responses to Amanda presents some Real Anti-Rape Advice

  1. Pingback: A View from A Broad

  2. 2
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    Damn, looking back at it, I should have mentioned that alcohol plays a factor in a lot of acquaintance rapes, because being drunk can make you an easy target. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

  3. 3
    ginmar says:

    Yeah, alcohol serves as an excuse for rape apologists and for those who want to blame the victim. I wonder how many of these guys gets drunk, then blames it on demon rum?

  4. 4
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    True enough, ginmar. It follows therefore that rapists probably prefer drunk victims precisely so that they can later argue that the woman deserved it for being drunk. Just goes to show that rape is a form of terrorism, because rapists very deliberately pick situations where women are just trying to have fun–they are not only attacking their victim but attacking women’s right to go out and have fun without fear of being attacked. Alcohol and partying related rapes should be treated by men as other men’s attempt to ruin their good time as well by scaring women into staying home. If more men blamed rapists for preying on parties instead of blaming women for going to them, we’d probably have a lot less rapes.

  5. 5
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    I dunno, I think it also follows that most people are more vulnerable when drunk. They aren’t as coherent of their environment and the people within it, and many senses are impaired. While the defense thing might be a small part of it, I’d say that it is much more likely that people see drunken people as easy targets because of the impairment factor.

    In that very impairment though, it shows how society can and does condone rape, because how often is it that young men will say ‘get her drunk, soften her up a bit’. They understand and know that alcohol can increase a persons vulnerability and are perfectly happy to take advantage of that.

  6. 6
    ginmar says:

    I read a chilling survey once and now I can’t remember where it was cited—maybe in Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes by Helen Benedict. It’s not just the press; the press is composed of regular people, so how they cover it is how we see it. Anyway, the survey found that if a defendant was good-looking, he was forgiven, because he ‘didn’t have to rape’, but if the victim was good-looking, she was blamed for inciting it by being pretty! If, of course, you’re not pretty, you’re either pathetic or a rebellious bitch. But in the matter of drinking, rapists who were drunk were forgiven because they weren’t responsible, while victims who were drunk were blmaed for being careless!

    All this crap about ‘no’ meaning ‘yes’ is positively offensive when some guys pretend to be unaware of the whole ‘he didn’t need to rape’ thing.

  7. 7
    piny says:

    Yeah, there was that tequila commercial for “liquid panty remover.”

    This is advice I’ve heard for walking alone at night, too. Look straight ahead, act like you know where you’re going, don’t hunch or hurry or seem scared, etc.

  8. 8
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    I guess for me, where I end up equating the alcohol notion with culturally condoned rape is that it doesn’t seem to understand or take into account that not sure = no.

    If it means a missed opportunity, so be it, but the only thing that means yes, is yes.

  9. 9
    Painini says:

    Along the same lines, talking to myself and randomly laughing out loud have been my favorite defenses when walking home alone at night.

  10. 10
    Glen Allen Ferguson says:

    This discussion of anti-rape advice is very interesting. There is a question I would like to interject. Since I have never posted an Alas, or for that matter any blog, and my interjection could possibly offend, I will give a tiny background. I am: male, late twenties, grad student, liberal, prior military, from a working class background. The interjection does not contain any advice but is a question about something which I, late in joining the discussion, do not comprehend. If it is plausible that people do foolish things which we, armed with prior statistical knowledge, believe to increase risk factors, then should we not discourage such behavior? To do so would be, without question, limiting, but it need not be a massive restriction. The argument that a limitation is necessarily limiting seems absurd, so I will present another absurd argument as example. If I was high on methadone, in a low income area of a major city, I have greatly increased my risk factors. While I am not responsible for any crime that is committed against me, the small fraction of criminals that live in these venerable populations may see me as a desirable target. Would it not be plausible to not condone or support my poor decision? For instance, being impaired around people I don’t know, without any support network is something I would never consider, it is simply too risky. So really the question is, when is it alright to disapprove of behavior we see as unwise?

  11. 11
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    I make cell phone calls to make it clear that I’m connected to other people. Also, picking your nose cuts down on street harassment. And lets people know that you are not cowed by social conventions that keep women docile.

  12. 12
    Jasper says:

    they will immediately adopt the posture of a shrinking violet and attract rapists

    “Attract rapists”? This is such utter bullshit. How is this different from the email forwards instructing women to never wear overalls or pony tails? Being aware of your surroundings and able to defend yourself are both good things, but I hardly think that failing to do so is tantamount to “attracting rapists.” You can use all the gimmicks you want to, talk on your cell phone, pick your nose, carry an ice pick everywhere you go, whatever, but the main factor in getting raped is the existence of men who think it’s OK to rape. And I am sick of all this “helpful advice” that distracts from that reality and indirectly blames women for being vulnerable, rather than blaming rapacious men for being violent and feeling entitled.

  13. 13
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Glen;

    Welcome to the blog. Your question is actually I think a really common one prior to really giving the issue the spotlight and inspection it needs.

    While caution isn’t in and of itself bad advice, putting the onus of caution on women, and propping up a society that fails to adequately address the problem over the symptom is at the core of this argument. In essence, it makes prevention of rape primarily a female job, versus a societal job with regards to preventing rapists.

    Their are plenty of great conversations on this blog that actually discuss the dynamics of rape and how society allows women to stay vulnerable by virtue of creating roles and behavioral patterns that encourage attitudes which make it more prevelant.

    For instance, the thing I was discussing prior was about how alcohol in most cases is seen as an impairment factor that will land you in jail if you use it unwisely and end up hurting others (driving a car for instance); nobody encourages young men to get drunk and drive. What our society does do, however, is encourage young men to use alcohol to help soften inhibitions of young women and increase their vulnerability to have sex. Right down to the whole ‘drink buying’ nature of going out to the bar.

    Anyways, while it’s not necessarily a bad thing to incorporate caution into a rape prevention theory, focusing on it as the main thing essentially allows those partaking in this sort of behavior (especially the ones partaking in the more culturally condoned aspect of acquaintance/date rape) to keep on doing what they are doing without any real change in the why. Caution only addresses how.

  14. 14
    Amanda says:

    John, in the post I emphasize that nothing can be taken as an invitation. My point is that rape is blamed on women not curtailing our freedom enough, but that in reality being afraid of men is not good advice. I don’t think it’s an equivalency issue–rape is used as excuse to curtail women’s freedom and I’m trying to make the point that the very act of telling women to be fearful benefits rapists because they do in fact count on women’s fear of making noise or standing up for ourselves to get their way.

  15. 15
    Amanda says:

    And the reason I listed the basic categories of rapists is to point out that different ones have different motivations and there is no one-size-fits-all way to approach safety issues. The rarest and most dangerous kind–sadists who get excited killing and raping women–there’s exactly no way to avoid them. And some rapists probably get a kick out of targeting “challenging” women. But the general advice is to reassure women that not only is our freedom not a problem, but having the self-assurance that we belong where we are is probably the only advice that can even give you a modicum of control when it comes to dealing with men on power trips.

    I think there’s a value in giving women advice that is empowering as long as said advice is not used against victims after the fact.

  16. 16
    Nephandus says:

    Glen Allen Ferguson Writes:
    “If I was high on methadone, in a low income area of a major city, I have greatly increased my risk factors. While I am not responsible for any crime that is committed against me, the small fraction of criminals that live in these venerable populations may see me as a desirable target. Would it not be plausible to not condone or support my poor decision?”

    It’s an excellent question, respectfully posed, and a direct answer has been missed so far. If I may point out in Kim’s thoughtful response, I don’t think anyone suggested “focusing on it as the main thing”, and the example as given doesn’t even involve a woman. The big picture, in that example, would be somehow eliminating or treating the potential for crime that exists in those areas before one wanders into them. But, lacking that, one contends with the risk factors of that environment as they are, rather than what one wishes they might be.

    Simply put, “While I am not responsible for any crime that is committed against me, would it be plausible to not support the decision to enter that environment while high on meth?” If you had a friend who told you he or she was going to do that, would you support that decision?

  17. 17
    Tuomas says:

    This advice in itself is lot better than the contradictory “be nice to boys so you are not a bitch but if you are nice to boys it’s your fault if you are raped”. However, not everyone can credible “walk everywhere as they own the place” and advocating for this seems to be counterproductive on several points…
    1) This is obvious. The responsibility on rape is with the rapist.
    2) Seems like this is only “how to not appear the weakest member of the herd in the eyes of the predator”. Of course, this is fine on a invidual viewpoint, but someone is always the weakest one. (Get rid of the predator, doh.)
    3) False sense of security. There is no fucking way of knowing what triggers a particular rapist. Some like easy targets, some probably want to punish “the uppity ones”.

    Glen Allen Ferguson wrote:

    If it is plausible that people do foolish things which we, armed with prior statistical knowledge, believe to increase risk factors, then should we not discourage such behavior?

    and

    For instance, being impaired around people I don’t know, without any support network is something I would never consider, it is simply too risky. So really the question is, when is it alright to disapprove of behavior we see as unwise?

    1)Stranger rape is much less common acquintance rape. Meaning women don’t have any special insight in knowing whether a boyfriend, friend, co-worker will turn out rapist.

    2)Most behaviors are pretty much unavoidable unless you are monk or a nun in a really safe monastery.
    I.e. going out after dark… Where I live in (central Finland) thats very easy in the summer and completely impossible in mid-winter (the sun shows for couple of hours if you’re lucky, bit norther it doesn’t show up at all), unless you have special arrangements for working at home, having a very reliable person bring you food to your apartment… (
    Or the bad neigborhood. Some do live in bad neigborhoods. Women too I suspect.
    Or being a woman. That’s not something women can stop “doing”.

    On the question of disapproving behaviour we see as unwise. My opinion it isn’t alright after discussing a woman who has been raped, but curiously, that seems the most appropriate (or even only) place to have such discussions for quite many people. It is alright in other places/times though, but I suspect discussion about “how to avoid high risk behaviour” is nothing new for many women, and men too.

  18. 18
    Tuomas says:

    Cross-posted with you, Amanda. Post 13 and14 I agree with completely, and they do clarify the original post a lot. Thanks.

  19. 19
    Tuomas says:

    Simply put, “While I am not responsible for any crime that is committed against me, would it be plausible to not support the decision to enter that environment while high on meth?”? If you had a friend who told you he or she was going to do that, would you support that decision?

    Uh, I wouldn’t support his/her choice to get high on meth in the first place, and I think no sane person would support the choice you are giving in that example. But then again the example is a bit far-fetched. Also, some people don’t have the privilege of choosing a safer environment (I’m not talking about myself, I frequently forget to unlock the doors of my car), and mistakes happen, and the worst thing to do is imply that the alleged victim was stupid… I think self-blame handles that pretty well.

  20. 20
    Amanda says:

    Agreed, Tuomas. One thing that I think that confidence can give women is improve their chances at fighting someone off–mind you that’s improve their chances. But again, my main point was to point out to the rape apologists how their “advice” actually has no relation to conclusions drawn by people who actually work to bring rapists to justice and actually know what they are talking about.

    As far at the weakest of the herd–yes and no. If we as a society agreed that women should have a right to move freely and went after rapists instead of their victims, then I think we’d have a rapid reduction in the amount of rape that occurs. However, there is no reason to think individual women can make this happen.

  21. 21
    Tuomas says:

    Amanda:
    Yes, like I said:

    (Get rid of the predator, doh.)

    Meaning just what you wrote: go after the rapists instead of nitpicking the victims behaviour, weakness or dress etc. And agreed on society… Just meant to point out that women cannot stop rape, and it’s dubious whether women can even reduce rape by simply competing on self-assertiveness.

    Oh, and I missed it previously but:

    Glen Allen Ferguson:

    The argument that a limitation is necessarily limiting seems absurd,

    I think limitations are, by definition, limiting?

  22. 22
    Tuomas says:

    (I’m not talking about myself, I frequently forget to unlock the doors of my car)
    I meant to lock door on my car, but unlock is true too, but then I usually see my mistake after some effort.

  23. 23
    Glen Allen Ferguson says:

    To comment of the reply I would like to point out several things and thank Kim, Nephandus, & Tuomas for an intriguing discussion. I did not address rape, a specific crime, or gender purposefully. I was trying to generalize the discussion. I realize that there are complex factors in crimes and did not want to focus on them in my question. I also understand rape not always a crime involving only strangers or risk taking behavior. I felt the original post seemed to say, that behavior shouldn’t be considered. From my prospective I did not believe this to be a wise thesis. I believe Kim’s reply indicates a different prospective. My understanding is that her view comes from the idea that rape is intrinsic to our society and cultural factors, encouraging rape, should be eliminated. Not that I claim to fully understand her position. I do think we are looking at the same issue and thinking about it with different sets of values. Starting from such a thesis makes the idea of risk avoidance less meaningful, since avoiding risk embodies the old adage, ” to survive a lion attack, you just need to run faster then other people around you, not the lion.” My final points address Tuomas. I understand that not all behaviors can be avoided, but I was asking about the idea of risk avoidance in general. Not behaviors like going to work. I chose a silly example on purpose because I wanted to explore the idea that I believed was in the original thesis. I did not want to suggest that risk could be eliminated. To say that would be absurd. Thank you again for the discussion.

  24. 24
    Amanda says:

    Well, it certainly wasn’t my intention to come across that way. I feel that in the context of the post and the larger point that the very advice that the wannabe helpful victim-blamers offer is exactly the opposite of what people who know what they’re talking about will tell you. But people who know what they’re talking about know that first and foremost, you cannot actually “prevent” rape and women shouldn’t feel guilty for being victimized.

  25. 25
    Susan says:

    It is probably impossible to entirely prevent rape, to the same degree and for the same reasons that we will never entirely irradicate murder, theft, assault and a whole other host of ills.

    However, more to the point is preventing the rape of oneself.

    Girls. Getting drunk in the company of people you don’t know, without any support network, isn’t very smart.

    This is just one of a number of such statements. Leaving your wallet (purse) unattended on the cafe table isn’t very smart. Nor is leaving your laptop computer there. Nor is leaving your car unlocked in most parts of most cities. Nor are verbal disputes with armed psychopaths.

    Does this mean that rape, theft, assault and murder are the fault of the respective victims? No, of course not. Crimes are the fault of the criminals.

    But we’re not talking about fault, are we? Let’s talk about how not to become a victim of crime. Sometimes it’s easy. (Don’t leave your laptop on the cafe table.) Sometimes it’s more difficult (avoiding certain parts of town.) Sometimes it’s just not worth it. (Never going outdoors.)

    Everyone (this includes men – not all victims of crime are women) has to draw their own risk/benefit ratio and live with it.

    The “pleasure” of becoming intoxicated to the point of impairment in the company of people I neither know nor trust is one I am personally willing to forego. Foregoing it will not eliminate the risk of rape (or any other crime). But it’s a start.

  26. 26
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Girls. Getting drunk in the company of people you don’t know, without any support network, isn’t very smart.

    This statement in and of itself absolutely bothers the shit out of me. First of all, I’m assuming you’re addressing women, not female adolescents. By the very act of addressing women as girls to tell them how they need to behave or not behave immediatly puts them right into the position of childish and incapable of making adult decisions.

    As for drinking – if I’m at a hotel and wish to go to the hotel bar and have a few cocktails, regardless of my husbands presence, I am going to do so. By hyping the ‘don’t do this, women’ attitude, what we are saying as a society is ‘or else you’ll be asking for it’. If you want to advise caution when doing so, yes, by all means, but this whole limiting a woman’s actions because we are too fucked up as a society to be able to point the finger at the source of the problem, rather than the symptom is part of the problem itself.

    My point? Lets try to get the focus where it belongs, which is the people who feel entitled to push their sexual agenda’s on others who aren’t consenting because society has set up a system that makes it less their fault when certain aspects are in the mix. NO, NO, and FUCK NO.

  27. 27
    Crys T says:

    “The “pleasure”? of becoming intoxicated to the point of impairment in the company of people I neither know nor trust is one I am personally willing to forego. ”

    While I would certainly never advise any woman to get drunk in the company of those she neither knows nor trusts, ONCE AGAIN I feel we need to point out (all together now) most rapes are done by someone the woman in question already knows and trusts. Like their male relatives, friends, partners, etc.

    And the entire point is also that women are continually having to live up to a standard of behaviour that men do not, simply in order to a) avoid being raped and b) in the case of being raped, to avoid any suggestion of “improper” behaviour. Which is bullshit. If a guy can get shitfaced drunk in the complany of people he doesn’t necessarily know that well, why the hell shouldn’t any woman? Yes, the reality is that we live in a society where the existence of male predators makes this unsafe, so why not change that reality, instead of doing nothing more than yammering on and on and on and on about what WOMEN ought to be doing?

  28. 28
    Brian Vaughan says:

    In a prior thread, BritGirlSF brought up a problem she’s had: her seeing men apparently setting up a rape, her trying to intervene, and her not getting any support from her male friends.

    I hope this question fits reasonably in this discussion: how can we recognize such a situation, and how should we intervene?

  29. 29
    Glen Allen Ferguson says:

    I believed this to be plain from context, but let me be clear. If I am limited in that I cannot do methadone in high crime areas, it is not a necessary limitation, i.e. one I must endure. I can simply chose not to do methadone with no real lose. If I am limited by not being able to leave my residence, I am necessarily limited, since I must leave my residence to do normal activities.

  30. 30
    Virginia says:

    When discussing the issues of prevention (which can ONLY be done by the potential rapist) and risk reduction (which may be done by the potential victim and community), I believe the issue we need to focus on is empowerment. In theory, I could reduce my risk A LOT by just never leaving the house and paying for an excellent security system. Would this be empowering? Not at all. It would be allowing fear to rule my life. When I consider risk-reducing behaviors, I always ask myself “Is this act going to make me feel more in control, more empowered, or is it giving control of my life to those who would be violent?” For example, I once stayed in a place where it was simply too hot to sleep with the windows closed, and I could not afford an air conditioner. If I had closed and locked my windows to “reduce my risk,” I would have been miserable. It would not have been an empowering act. Here in my current home, however, I feel empowered when I go around at night and lock up before going to sleep. Each individual must choose which risk-reducing behaviors will be empowering and which will not, and each individual’s list will be different. To those who think we should not condone risky behavior, I would point out that the average woman does at least 50 risk-reducing behaviors a day without even thinking about it. We are taught to habitually act as if the world is not safe. Whether it is walking only along a lit path, locking the door behind us, meeting a new date in a public place, we do over 50 behaviors without even realizing it! Any man who did over 50 behaviors a day to reduce his risk of, well, ANYthing would be considered obsessive. Why is it important to shift the focus from risk-reduction (the behaviors of potential victims) to prevention (the behaviors of potential assailants)? If we don’t, we are automatically encouraging victim-blaming, no matter how often we say “Now, I don’t mean to imply we should blame a victim here…” We should encourage people to find their own comfort zone in which their behaviors are empowering, not disempowering. After that, back off. Anything more that you say about “you should do X,Y, and Z and you should not do A, B, and C” WILL come back to haunt a woman if she is later attacked. Your voice will be replayed in her head. If we focus on shoulds and coulds instead of helping people determine their personal empowerment zone and teaching people that attacks may happen regardless of how cautious they are, the ABC and XYZ will be remembered far longer than our disclaimers that we should not blame a victim.

  31. 31
    maureen says:

    But if I live in a high crime area – I’m poor – or I work in a high crime area – I’m a district nurse – am I not then entitled to be safe? Have I somehow opted out of citizenship? Do I get a refund on my taxes? Do I have to wait until all the world’s other problems are sorted and some bored civil servant turns to his colleague and says, “I know what, let’s do something about rape. After all we’ve nothing else to do.”

    No! I can say rape is a crime. The criminal is the rapist. We have major problems getting convictions. We have problems with a culture which condones rape, which just shrugs and says that boys will be boys, which treats someone punching me in the face is somehow more important and easier to deal with than someone forcibly penetrating my vagina, with whatever.

    The majority of women have this pretty straight in their heads, certainly those who post here, not forgeting the clued-up men here also. The problem is not with women, it is not with confusion, it is not with high crime areas. It rest solely with those men who find it painful just to think and will go to incredible lengths to avoid doing so.

  32. 32
    mousehounde says:

    Glen said:
    I did not address rape, a specific crime, or gender purposefully. I was trying to generalize the discussion.

    Why are you trying to generalize the topic on a thread about “victim blaming and rape”? Doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. How do you discuss a topic without addressing any of the things related to the topic?

    If I am limited in that I cannot do methadone in high crime areas, it is not a necessary limitation, i.e. one I must endure. I can simply chose not to do methadone with no real lose. If I am limited by not being able to leave my residence, I am necessarily limited, since I must leave my residence to do normal activities.

    I am not sure what someone pursuing an illegal activity in a high crime area has to do with women who are raped. I keep trying to compare the two and I got nothing.

  33. 33
    Crys T says:

    “In theory, I could reduce my risk A LOT by just never leaving the house and paying for an excellent security system. Would this be empowering? Not at all.”

    It would also not be very effective, seeing as most rapes are committed by (yes! once again!!) MEN WHO ARE ACQUAINTANCES OF THE VICTIM.

    And that is really a big reason (though by no means the only reason) that we have to start focusing on the RAPIST rather than the victims. Because unless every female of every age eliminates males from her life 100%, they will be in a position where rape might occur. OK? If they’re young hot sexy babes, if they’re over 80, if they’re overweight, if they’re middle-aged, if they’re too young to even be able to speak yet, and on and on. Females of all ages and of all physical types and who clothe themselves in any manner of fashion from Bad Slutty-Slut to Sexless Puritan to whatever the fuck else: rape knows no fucking boundaries, and rapists sure as fuck don’t take a pass on attacking those females who have followed all of society’s guidelines on “proper” womanly behaviour.

    OK? So can we drop all the fantasies about “minimising risks” and other such bullshit, because if there are ANY males with ANY access to your life, you are running the fucking risk. So, y’know, those women here who are chiming in with more about how it’s women who have to take responsibility, take a look at your own lives: are there any men AT ALL in them? If so, you sure as hell are not doing “all you could” to make sure you don’t get raped, so maybe lecturing other women on what they are doing wrong is just a wee bit…..well…..hypocritical.

    And before all the MRA’s and their like-minded buddies start their weeny-whining about how mean the Bad Feminist is, by suggesting all women get rid of all men, let me just say that I am suggesting nothing of the sort: I am merely pointing out that virtually all the advice handed out to women about “minimising risk” is plain useless because it’s based on a completely erroneous set of assumptions about rape. Specifically, that rape is something done by a stranger to a young, conventionally attractive woman. No, no, and no again.

  34. 34
    Susan says:

    1. “Girls.” Rather than boys, OK? Calm down.

    2. I’m not talking about going to the hotel bar and having a few cocktails. I’m talking about getting really drunk, as I said. (There’s an argument that that is never a very good idea no matter who you’re with, but we’ll leave that.)

    3. Everyone, male or female, who lives in a “high crime” area is “entitled” to be safe, which is a fancy way of saying that there should be no high crime areas. I couldn’t agree more. However, right now in the real world there are such places. Certainly we should work for change, but in the meantime, shouldn’t we also try to protect ourselves from crime? No one is forcing you to do this, of course, if you don’t want to, but you have to realize that refusing to behave prudently is raising the likelihood that you will be victimized. This is not my fault, even though stating this obvious truth is politically incorrect.

    4.

    Any man who did over 50 behaviors a day to reduce his risk of, well, ANYthing would be considered obsessive.

    Ridiculous. Any man who didn’t perform a substantial number of behaviors a day – probably 50 anyway – to protect himself would have been dead long ago. Such a man would never lock his door, his car door, use his seat belt, refuse to drive when impaired, or stop at red lights; he would leave his laptop alone in the cafe, his wallet on the counter and his credit card in plain sight on his desk. He’d go into crowds with his wallet in his back pocket; he’d get drunk and walk home alone in the dark in the city. (Being mugged and beaten isn’t a whole lot more fun than being raped, I imagine.) On and on.

    OK, OK, it’s All A Big Wrong, the world is wrongly organized, there are criminals all over the place and there shouldn’t be. I agree. And rape gets too easy a pass too many times. (As do many other crimes.)

    But all I said was that, and I quote, Getting drunk in the company of people you don’t know, without any support network, isn’t very smart.

    It can irritate the shit out of the lot of you, but it’s still true. I think.

  35. 35
    Jenny K says:

    Susan,

    Leaving your bike outside, overnight, unlocked (even in your own yard) in Eugene, OR isn’t a bright idea either, but no one there tries to say that people who do so, and have their bikes stolen, were asking for it.

    It is also understood that bike theft prevention in Eugene/Springfield focuses on the behaviour of potential victims because the police had better things to spend their time and money on, not because it is the best way to deal with rampant bike theft.

    Being smart about the choices you make with regard to your property and health is never a bad idea, but focusing only, or mostly, on potential victims behaviour rarely does much in the long run, tends to turn in to blaming the victim, and when taken to extremes, such as when it comes to women and rape, tends to limit the actions of potential victims in uneccessary, and often conterprodective ways. Until the problem of rapists is addressed, focusing on potential victims only causes the bar to be set higher and higher for “smart” behaviour.

  36. 36
    Brian Vaughan says:

    I’ll try again. There were a couple of posts in the on the subject of third parties intervening in “sketchy situations,” in the “Yes, some guys are assholes” thread. There was this one, for instance:

    # BritGirlSF Writes:
    June 20th, 2005 at 2:41 pm

    If I can backtrack for a second, I’d like to revisit the idea of what men do when confronted by male behaviour that they find repugnant. A really interesting question is how men who hear other men talking about sexual situations that sound like they might be rape handle that situation. Also, how they react to situations that look like they might turn into “date rape”? (eg the really drunk girl at a frat party who’s being led upstairs by a guy who you already think is a bit sketchy). My impression (from personal experience) is that men who actually have empathy for women usually respond by jut avoiding these guys, ie they communicate their distaste at innapropriate behaviour from other men by not hanging out with those men. Which I can understand – who likes being around unpleasant people? However, if you just avoid someone whose beahaviour you don’t approve of without telling them WHY you’re avoiding them, they don’t know that it’s the behaviour that caused you to stop wanting to be around them. If you see a situation that looks like it might lead to rape and don’t intervene because you don’t want the other guys to think less of you, are you not in some sense complicit in what happens?
    I’ve seen far too many situations in which men who I know wouldn’t rape or take advantage of women themselves don’t actually condemn other men’s bad behaviour, don’t even say anything about it, they just avoid the offending (and offensive) individual. I think that one thing that men could do to fight against the rape culture is to be more open about criticising sexist behaviour and language, challenging other men on their sexual braggadocio (sp?), and actually intervening in sketchy situations. The subset of men who engage in these behaviours are clearly not interested in anything that women have to say about rape or sexual bahaviour in general, but they might be susceptible to peer pressure from other men.

    This may be a minority of all rapes, but it still sounds like a significant category, and it’s one in which there’s a possibility of third parties intervening (men and women) and preventing a rape from occurring. Can we discuss in more detail how to recognize these situations, and how best to intervene?

  37. 37
    Susan says:

    Jenny K,

    I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m not saying that a woman who gets drunk and thereby gets raped is to blame for the rape. The rapist is to be blamed for rape. No, it’s not OK to rape, even if the victim has been drinking. Just like it’s not OK to steal my bike even if I did leave it unlocked.

    Being smart about the choices you make with regard to your property and health is never a bad idea, but focusing only, or mostly, on potential victims behaviour rarely does much in the long run, tends to turn in to blaming the victim, and when taken to extremes, such as when it comes to women and rape, tends to limit the actions of potential victims in uneccessary, and often conterprodective ways. Until the problem of rapists is addressed, focusing on potential victims only causes the bar to be set higher and higher for “smart”? behaviour.

    Certainly. If we give men a free pass to rape anyone they can overpower, we’ll all of us be locked indoors for the duration. And we won’t be safe even there. We need to come down hard on the criminals.

    However. I’m just saying, until the Perfect Society is initiated, lock your bike, and watch your alcohol consumption, especially in crowds, or with people you do not have very good reason to trust very much. (Guys, this means you too. It’s not usually women who get killed in drunken brawls, or who get mugged and beaten walking drunk through the streets, not to mention the whole gig about cars.)

  38. 38
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Susan,

    What you’re saying now is much different sounding than the first go around. Whether that was simply wording choice or not, I’ll leave for you to say.

    Right now what you’re saying is that this sort of behavior is risky for both men and women and you’re not addressing it as simply a women only thing. Once you directly address it as women only, in context of prevention of rape, to me it’s giving potential rapists and sexual predators a carte blanche to continue what they are doing uninhibitedly. After all, the focus isn’t on them, but on the woman. I’m fine with addressing risky behaviors, but the agenda should absolutely be putting the focus where it needs to be: The rapist.

    We need society to send messages out that remind men that aggressive sexual behavior that hasn’t been given the thumbs up prior to engaging, regardless of sobriety is not okay. Instead they focus on the victim, just like you did earlier.

    Brian V.;

    My thought on that one would be to really look at the situation and see if a call to 911 might be warranted. Maybe have a cellphone poised to dial in your hand as you vocally intervene? If the aggression turns on you, call 911 immediatly.

  39. 39
    mousehounde says:

    This may be a minority of all rapes, but it still sounds like a significant category, and it’s one in which there’s a possibility of third parties intervening (men and women) and preventing a rape from occurring. Can we discuss in more detail how to recognize these situations, and how best to intervene?

    Sounds good. I have never been in the situation you describe in the context of rape. (Where I was a third party observer/bystander) The closest I recall was in a grocery store parking lot. A man yelling at his wife for how much money she had spent (it looked like he was waiting in the car for them) and was tossing groceries and kids in the car without regard for any kind of safety. He grabbed her by the arm and shoved her against the car. I was parked just over from them. I yelled at him that he couldn’t do that. He grabbed the empty cart and shoved it at me. Knocked me to one knee and dented my truck. The lady went and got into the car soon as he let go, so soon as he tossed the cart at me, he got in and they took off.

    So, what else could I have done? If I had gone into the store and got help, he would have been gone. And three or four sturdy looking men got in their cars and drove off while it was happening. And they saw. I know they did.

    So, if I was in a situation where I saw a potential for rape, what could I do as a bystander? What would you do? It’s a good question, because I would not know what to do myself.

  40. 40
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Again, my suggestion would be to get as much information as you possibly could (description, and in this case license plate) and call 911. Your intervention got you assaulted as well. It might seem like overkill, but when confronting strangers that have shown themselves to be violent and without regard for anyone witnessing their violence, you can probably assume that they aren’t much for reasoning.

  41. 41
    piny says:

    >>I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m not saying that a woman who gets drunk and thereby gets raped is to blame for the rape. The rapist is to be blamed for rape. No, it’s not OK to rape, even if the victim has been drinking. Just like it’s not OK to steal my bike even if I did leave it unlocked.>>

    Okay. And can we agree that, for the purposes of this discussion, this is a pretty irrelevant piece of advice? Most women don’t get raped because they get falling-down drunk at a party. Most women don’t get raped because they walk home alone at night through a horrible part of town. Most women do not get raped because they ask strange men for help, or because they hitchhike, or because they follow groups of strange men out into the dark. Most women are not raped by strangers.

    The problem with this kind of advice–aside from the victim-blaming issue–is that an unwillingness to be careful is not the problem. safe behavior has resulted in the statistics we have now. Most women already take all reasonable precautions. The only way they can reduce their risk further is to become paranoid, celibate, sober agoraphobics. And that’s exactly what most rape-prevention articles are designed to do.

  42. 42
    BritGirlSF says:

    In response to Amanda’s orginal point- yes, there are characteristics generally shared by victims of stranger rapes. I think that it’s important to point out two things thought. Firstly, these same characterists are shared by victims of almost all violent or aggressive crimes. Whether you look at stranger rape, or muggings, or common assault, the victims usually share a common body langauge. I studied criminology in college, and research has consistently found that kinesthesiologists (sp?) can look at a group of people and tell just from the way they walk which ones are most likely to be victims of violent crime. This is regardless of gender, age, class etc – predators look for vulnerable people, and the way a person moves is a big part of the way they assess vulnerability.
    This brings me to point number two, which is – there is very little that the victim can do about their body language. It’s all very well to tell someone to stand up straight, look people in the eye, try to appear confident etc, walk with purpose etc, but to a large degree these things are involuntary. It’s not easy to change your body language. I’m not sure that telling women to change their body language is very helpful, because I’m not convinced that they can.
    So, this might be good advice for those who are able to follow it BUT we’re still left with the fact that by doing so you are simply identifying yourself as not the weakest member of the herd. It doesn’t stop the predator from attacking, it just means that they will probably attack someone else. The real problem is how to stop the predator from attacking anyone.
    Note to Amanda – I do think that this can be good advice for those women who can manage to implement it in that it will offer them personally some protection. What worries me is that it can be twisted around by rape apologists to argue that the women who are victims brought things on themselves. This is exactly what happened in my criminology classes by the way, which is why I didn’t throw this argument into any of the previous threads. It’s a tricky question – how to get potentially useful information to individual women in a way that doesn’t allow that info to later be used against all of us?
    Any also, what everyone else said. Regardless of how prudent or otherwise the behaviour of the prey, the real problem lies with the predator.

  43. 43
    BritGirlSF says:

    About Brian’s point which mentioned my post on the other thread, I just wabt to clarify. I wasn’t really talking about situations where a woman is about to be raped, right this minute (eg you walk into a room where the woman is boing held down on a bed crying and she asks for help). I think that in a situation that obvious most people would try to intervene. What I was getting at was the more ambiguous situations where most savvy people would get the feeling that someone was attempting to manoever a woman into a dangerous situation. It’s in those situations that I’ve seen people stand back and do nothing even though they are clearly aware that something sketchy is going on.
    To give another example – you’re at a house party. You see a woman being plied with booze by a guy you already know is sketchy (based on the way he talks about women, the way he describes his past “exploits”). You then see this man lead this woman, who is stumbling and drunk, towards a bedroom. Maybe you even see his buddies watching, nudging each other and following. Or maybe you see the guy insisting that he’s going to give her a ride home, even though she’s protesting or looking uncomfortable, or she looks like she’s about to pass out (stumbles into the back seat and starts to fall asleep). Your gut is telling you that something bad is going to happen to this girl. She isn’t one of your close friends (ie the people who you would automatically jump in and extract from such a situation). What do you do? Calling the police doesn’t make sense to me in those situations because at this point no crime has been committed. However, you’re worried that if nobody intervenes a crime will be committed very soon. Again, what do you do? Most people do nothing, unless the woman is a friend of theirs.
    That’s what I was trying to get at.
    And FYI, all of the above are actual scenarios which I’ve either witnessed or heard about from friends.

  44. 44
    Virginia says:

    Crys T,
    That is exactly what I meant. If I locked myself in the house and never had contact with another human being and had a good security system, I could minimize my risk. I was not neglecting the realities of acquaintance rape in my comment. I was saying that I would have to entirely isolate myself, even from friends. That said, however, I do appreciate those who point out that “all rape is stranger rape.” Think about it. When a person you “know” chooses to rape you, aren’t they proving themselves to be a stranger? ;)

    As for Susan,
    Men do not perform over 50 behaviors a day to reduce their risk of 1 specific thing. You have pointed out several behaviors that reduce several different risks.

  45. 45
    BritGirlSF says:

    Susan, anyone who performs over 50 risk-reducing behaviours a day is probably suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. I don’t think that there’s anything praise-worthy about that.

  46. 46
    Susan says:

    Depends on what you mean by risk-reducing, BritGirlSF. Brushing my teeth, taking a vitamin pill, locking my door, fastening my seat belt, then being very careful even if I have the green light, then locking my car, then crossing the street only at the crosswalk (not at that more convenient place in the middle of the block), on and on – I can probably make it to 50 before I get to the office even.

    This makes me OCD?

  47. 47
    Susan says:

    As for Susan,
    Men do not perform over 50 behaviors a day to reduce their risk of 1 specific thing. You have pointed out several behaviors that reduce several different risks.

    I don’t either. Perform over 50 behaviors a day to reduce the risk of 1 specific thing. Well, OK. Maybe theft.

  48. 48
    Virginia says:

    Susan,
    Good. I’m glad you have found a comfortable place and are not letting the realities of the world influence your life as much as most. Most women do all those behaviors to reduce risk of rape without even realizing it. What I wrote was never to say that we should all give up on all risk-reducing behaviors when it comes to sexual assault. What we should give up is assuming that we know for another person which behaviors would be reasonable and empowering and which behaviors would be unreasonable and disempowering. The same behavior could influence two different people in two different ways. For example, you say you lock your door. That’s great. I’m sure it makes you feel safer. If Jane down the street chooses not to lock her door, however, because purposefully developing that habit would actually make her feel like fear of being attacked was unreasonably changing her routine, that is fine, and she is no less smart than you. Similarly, if spending hundreds of dollars on an alarm system makes me feel empowered, great, but that doesn’t make me smarter than you if you choose not to do that. Talking about the “shoulds” and “smart behaviors” implies that a potential victim actually has a contributory role to play in the attack. I know you don’t mean to say that, but that is the message that is sent. Instead of focusing on which behaviors one person labels smart, we need to acknowledge that each and every woman has her own set of risk-reducing behaviors that she has chosen that work for her life. We can educate and point out options, but we should always return to the focus of “These are things you might consider if they will make you feel more in control, but choosing not to do one of these will not mean you are in any way to blame if you are attacked.” Yes, that includes things like drinking at parties and other things that seem obviously less smart to you. If we go around choosing which behaviors to judge as smart and not smart, we ARE contributing to those voices in women’s heads after they’ve been raped.

  49. 49
    Glaivester says:

    I can think of two cases where I saw something happening that I thought wasn’t quite right. The first time, I didn’t intervene, the second time I did.

    The first time, I was a freshman in college. I saw a (freshman) girl come back to her dorm room from a party on the arm of a boy. As I recall, she was obviously drunk, and nearly falling over. The boy seemed pretty amused. I was on the phone in the lobby (for some reason I didn’t call from my room), and saw them go through the hallway.

    The next morning I smelt an awful smell; it was apparently a cleaner; she had thrown up the night before in her room. As I recall, she didn’t know who had brought her home the night before. I don’t know what happened, but I got a feeling that the guy had had sex with her, which would then presumably have been “date rape,” as she was too drunk to consent, although I won’t say that she was raped unless she wanted t ocharacterize it as such (quick point here – my position on date rape is that sex with a woman whose ability to consent is compromised is determined to be rape or not at her discretion – if a woman gets drunk with the express goal of having sex in that state, and is okay with it afterwards, I can’t consider it to be rape).

    The second time, I was in my dorm at graduate school, late at night, and I saw a boy chasing a girl around the dorm. At first, it seemed like the chase was all in fun, so I didn’t do anything (although I was a little disturbed and followed them). Then I saw the guy grab the girl in a bear hug and hold her.

    She asked me to help her. I asked if she was serious (I still wasn’t certain if they were playing). When she said yes, I tried to step between them. He let go and she ran off down the hall to her room. I held him back for a second and then he ran past me after her. She got to her room, but he also managed to get inside.

    I started hollering, and asked another girl (who was looking out of her room to see what the commotion was about to call Security. I went over to the boy’s section of the floor to get some help and got another guy to help if someone were needed to restrain the attacker.

    He and I went to the girl’s side and the girl who was to call Security went with him to the attacked girl’s room while I wound up calling Security from the room of the girl whom I had asked to call (the girl who was to call them couldn’t find the number). By the time I got out of the room, the attacker had left (the attacked girl was apparently unharmed) and we waited for the police to show up. I gave a statement, and was later subpoenaed to testify against the guy for assault, but the case was apparently dropped for whatever reason.

  50. 50
    Glaivester says:

    This strikes me a lot like defensive driving:

    You sometimes don’t do something even if it doesn’t put you at fault, because you know it’s too risky.

    Does anyone suggest that telling people to look both ways before crossing the street sends the wrong message? After all, pedestrians have the right of way, so it is the fault of those driving vehicles if they hit a pedestrian. Telling someone to look both ways could contribute to the voice inside their head telling them that they are at fault if a careless motorist hits them.

    I wouldn’t dream of telling someone who was raped at a party that it was their fault. However, if someone is planning on getting drunk at a party, I would definitely warn them that they are putting themselves in a high-risk situation and that it is a bad idea. Not that it would be their fault if they got raped, but at this point (i.e. before anything has happened) I’m more concerned with their safety than with who gets blamed if something happens.

    And none of this means that I wouldn’t advise a guy against an attitude that says forcing someone to have sex is okay.

  51. 51
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    Note to Amanda – I do think that this can be good advice for those women who can manage to implement it in that it will offer them personally some protection. What worries me is that it can be twisted around by rape apologists to argue that the women who are victims brought things on themselves. This is exactly what happened in my criminology classes by the way, which is why I didn’t throw this argument into any of the previous threads. It’s a tricky question – how to get potentially useful information to individual women in a way that doesn’t allow that info to later be used against all of us?

    I dunno, Brit. I presented my friend’s advice in a larger context of explaining exactly how the so-called advice that victim-blamers give is not only mean and uncalled for, but it’s also exactly wrong from a criminal justice viewpoint. I think context is important–my girlfriend is very victim-sympathetic and never comes across as blaming simply because she never does it. Once you’re in the thick of it and you deal with extremely persistent rapists, it’s very hard to give advice in a know-it-all tone of voice.

    But I think the main point I was trying to get across–that women’s freedom is not the problem but in fact our sexist culture’s insistence on women’s docility is a problem–I think it still stands. When I was assaulted, my confusion left me floundering around for the proper reaction and when I began to protest it simply wasn’t adamant enough. I was frightened, though, and no one can blame me for that. But on top of that I had grown up under years of pressure to go with the flow, never raise my voice, etc. I really do think that it will help women to fight our upbringing and learn to vocalize, stand up, etc.

    But yes, I’m concerned now that I think about it that any advice to women to stand up for themselves will get twisted into victim-blaming. And that’s a huge shame, because women should feel free to empower ourselves while understanding we can’t control everything.

    Still, I think overall the approach I took was valuable–by listing different types of rapists we get the conversation back where it belongs on why rapists do what they do. I realize there is a minor breakdown in stranger vs. acquaintance rape, but I think that’s overblown since rapists themselves blur those distinctions. Is a man who hires a prostitute and hangs out with her for an hour an acquaintance? I don’t think that acquaintance rapists have very different motivations than stranger rapists–the end result is that they have power and anger problems they tak out by raping.

  52. 52
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    Glaive, you’re right. My initial problem with Steve wasn’t that he offered useful advice like have friends watch over you, etc. It was his language and his victim-blaming. And most especially his comment that a woman alone with men should somehow expect to fuck all of them or get raped. That is complete and utter bullshit. This is not Victorian England and men and women can be alone together without sex on the menu.

  53. 53
    Virginia says:

    Glaivester,
    Actually, as a health psychology student, I can appreciate your analogy to safety-related behaviors such as looking both ways before crossing the street. And I DO extend my attitudes about empowerment vs. behavioral labeling to those situations. I believe in all areas of health and safety, we can educate and inform about behaviors that might reduce one’s risk, and we can empower people to choose which sets of behaviors will best fit into their lives and help them feel in control. We can then remind people that anybody, regardless of how careful they might be, can be a victim at some point. In the case of traffic safety, for example, I can educate about the risk-reducing behavior of looking both ways. I do not have to say “You should look both ways” but I can say “Looking both ways may help you see if somebody is coming and inform your decision about when to walk.” Likewise, I can educate somebody and say “You may choose never to cross the street without a crossing light and/or crossing guard. This may inform your decision about when and where to walk.” Each person will have to choose which set of risk-reducing behaviors is best for him or her. For you, avoiding all street crossings without a crossing guard or light might be more restrictive. So if you choose to walk after looking around but I choose only to walk when a sign says “WALK”, neither of us is smarter than the other. If I took an empowerment perspective in my education of you, if you get hit, you are less likely to think “Well, it wasn’t very smart of me to walk across that street without a crossing guard.” Same goes for any health behavior. We implicitly blame the victims of all sorts of diseases when we imply that everybody SHOULD eat whole foods, exercise, wash hands, avoid sick people, only eat at the cleanest establishments, get all vaccines, etc etc. Health education can be empowering, but often is not. All too often, it focuses on having people alter their lives to revolve around a predator (person, injury, germ, or condition) and leads to people blaming themselves if things don’t turn out well.

  54. 54
    BritGirlSF says:

    Amanda, I think you missed my point (and I was reponding to what you wrote here, not the post on Pandagon). I wasn’t suggesting that you shouldn’t have given the advice – I think there’s plenty of good advice that could be given to women about how to protect themselves. I’m just not sure how we do that without giving the blame the victim crowd another stick to beat us with. I studied criminology at Uni and it’s amazing how quickly people leap to blaming the victim for not somehow intuiting what might make a predator target them and changing their behaviour accordingly. Also, as I said before, not all women are able to change the body language that makes them look like easy targets to a predator – I always walk around like I own the place, and give the icy glare of death to any man who approaches me at night or in a deserted place, but that’s not because I read a criminology textbook, it’s just because I’m an assertive person. I’m not sure that telling someone to be more assertive works very well if they’ve been trained all their life to be passive.
    For anyone who does take a look at a criminology textbook, the scariest thing is that the standard victim profile for violent crime matches up with what society considers to be appropriate feminine behaviour disturbingly closely. The kind of behaviour and body language that tends to put off predators, when exhibited by women, is usually referred to as being a bitch. Therefore, as the Pandagon post pointed out, the advice usually given to women exactly the opposite of anything that might actually make them more safe. It actually makes them LESS safe. The real thing to take away from the study of criminology, IMHO, is that society expects women to be so nice and so timid and so polite that, if they follow the script, it renders them almost incapable of defending themselves and makes them easy targets for predators. So, as usual, it’s the culture and the gendered behaviour that it teaches that’s at fault.

  55. 55
    BritGirlSF says:

    Here’s a thing I never hear discussed in the blame the victim conversation – the male behaviours and characteristics that should be an instant red flag. Like, for example, men who consistently invade your personal space right from when you first meet them and ignore requests to back off and/or get pissy when it is pointed out to them that this is not acceptable. To me that’s a huge red flag, but I never hear that kind of thing discussed, and identifying male behaviour that suggests that the man might not exactly be the best person to be around is a hell of a lot more useful than warning women to lock their windows, IMHO.
    FYI, before anyone jumps on me, I am NOT suggesting that women should be able to intuit which guys might turn out to be rapists and held responsible if they are not able to do so. What I am saying is that some guys give quite clear behavioral clues that they have no respect for women’s bodily integrity and/or feelings, and that I’m not sure that we as older women do a good job of alerting younger women to what those clues are (and reassuring them that being called a bitch is a small price to pay for defending your own body space and your own safety).
    Or, to put it another way – rather than telling women how to change their own body language in order not to look like a “victim”, which still puts the onus on the woman (and is most applicable in stranger rapes), how about exploring some of the aspects of male body language (and speech) which might indicate that they’re a potential date rapist?

  56. 56
    ginmar says:

    Oh, I’d say having no respect for women is a huge red flag. And that can take whatever form you want. I’m debating with conservative guys about women in combat now. Their attitude toward women is just beyond belief. They’re all trolls, basically, all possessed by Nephandus’ and Aegis’ expertise.

  57. 57
    AndiF says:

    BritGirl: Or, to put it another way – rather than telling women how to change their own body language in order not to look like a “victim”?, which still puts the onus on the woman (and is most applicable in stranger rapes), how about exploring some of the aspects of male body language (and speech) which might indicate that they’re a potential date rapist?

    Along those lines, we all need to get after guys who act that way so that they will learn that it isn’t acceptable. We need to strenuously counteract the cultural attitude that “you can’t blame a guy for trying”. If we want to prevent more rapes, we should be proactively changing the behavior that makes guys think that verbally or physically harassing women sexually is “normal” and constantly getting that message from ones peers ought to be an excellent teaching tool.

  58. 58
    Lee says:

    Virginia, I think you’re drawing a very useful distinction between prevention and risk-reduction. Women get risk-reduction training all the time, from the media, friends, parents, teachers, etc., but where is the prevention training for men? Do we have classes or media campaigns or “Just Say Don’t” slogans? Until we figure out the best way to address rape prevention, we won’t get very far, because we’re only addressing half of the problem.

  59. 59
    Amanda says:

    Great points all around, Brit. Agreed–I framed it in a context of refuting what I saw as bad advice, but our sexist culture makes it difficult to do anything to empower women without it getting turned back around on us.

  60. 60
    Lizzybeth says:

    I’ve been saying for years that school-age girls should be taught self-defense in physical education class. I happened to become involved in karate as a teenager and I can tell you, the most valuable aspect of martial arts is not your ability to execute a jump-kick, but the ability to trust your instincts and think quickly in a dangerous situation. One of the first things that we learned was how to project the kind of self-assurance and physical ability that makes us less vulnerable to be selected for attack. Moreover, girls are not encouraged to roughhouse and fight the way boys are as children, and the initial reaction of most women when faced with potential violence is to freeze, to panic. Basic self-defense can increase the confidence of young girls and give them back a sense of possession over their own bodies. Why aren’t we willing to take a little time out from Volleyball (or Square-Dancing, in the case of my hick school) to educate young women on how to defend themselves? I’d guess the answer is that society would rather keep fearfull women morally constrained “for their own protection” than actually produce females capable of defending themselves.

  61. 61
    cloudy day says:

    I’ve been thinking I would like to travel around the country – by car – by myself.

    That it would be nice to just stop at rest areas on occasion and get some sleep instead of always paying for a motel.

    Should I – as a female alone – fear being attacked?

    It seems like – since a man might do this and get away with it – that we would like to think that women could as well. But in the real world – I don’t know that that is realistic.

    And just because people shouldn’t attack – doesn’t necessarily mean someone wouldn’t.

    Isn’t that what the conversation is?

    I guess someone pointed out that everyone decides for themselves what risks they are willing to tolerate and essentially how much they are willing to spend – to live in a “safer” part of town, buy better locks or whatever.

    And to some extent – spending money might help – sleeping in a motel instead of a car, for instance. (And some places it might be safe – but in a unfamiliar place – it might be difficult to know).

    As much as people don’t like the idea that women who are drunk can be more at risk than those who are not (depending on the situation – hinging on whether there are predators around – esp. that one might not recognize as predators) – it seems like one of those facts of life that people can accept or not.

    Accepting it does not mean accepting the blame or excusing rapists – it’s looking both ways before you cross the street – because of that occasional person who will see you and run over you – because they think they are entitled to.

    I don’t think it’s possible to give anti-rape advice if you can’t give anti-rape advice because in so doing you are saying there are situations you may want to watch out for. Not all situations are equally safe. Not all times of day are as equally safe esp. in certain areas where predators are more likely to hang out.

    And some situations seem perfectly safe and they aren’t anyway.

  62. 62
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    The problem rests in the advice often going hand in hand with victim accountability. Sure, preventative measures are fine, so long as prevention isn’t the focus, but instead considered a part of the problem, which is the rapist.

    We really need to make sure we are adequately addressing the problem of rapists and what can be done in terms of rape prevention on their ends.

  63. 63
    Susan says:

    As much as people don’t like the idea that women who are drunk can be more at risk than those who are not (depending on the situation – hinging on whether there are predators around – esp. that one might not recognize as predators) – it seems like one of those facts of life that people can accept or not.

    I think that’s it, cloudy.

    I’m a lot older than you-all, and I’ve run all over the place doing pretty much what I liked – I hitchhiked around alone behind the Iron Curtain when there was an Iron Curtain, as well as other pieces of adventure – and I don’t have 100 years ahead of me to Reform Society Completely. I leave that to you young women.

    I’ve made some changes in society – when I became a lawyer, it was a very daring thing for me to do – but pretty much from this point out I have to accept the facts and move forward. I still go camping alone in the desert, all that, and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.

    I certainly don’t do, and never did, anything like 50 things a day to avoid the risk of assault. I’m 60 years old now, still looking pretty good, and I was said to be a reasonably hot babe in my day, so it’s not that. I naturally walk as though I owned the place – haven’t you heard? I own the place! – and maybe that’s one reason why I’ve never run into trouble. That and dumb luck.

    Being drunk or otherwise impaired is riskier than having your wits about you. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is. No one, certainly not me, is going to blame you for someone else’s crimes because you were drunk, what kind of sense is that supposed to make, but if you don’t want to become a victim, and getting really really drunk isn’t, on balance, that important to you, you might think about it.

  64. 64
    Rock says:

    I was sexually assaulted as a young man. (Former baby sitter) My wife was raped being driven home after drinks, after work by an acquaintance, neither assailant was held accountable. I have an 18 year old daughter that is just growing in leaps and bounds as she explores new love and new college friends, new job. (It is great!)

    My wife and I are struggling with our daughter’s naiveté when it comes to associating with people she doesn’t know that well late at night in unfamiliar places. (Stone cold sober, as she does not drink. (Dads an addict, lesson learned) Most of the people she hangs with are related through the Church family she shares, this is no relief as the men in church are susceptible to the same messages as the rest of society.) The reason is that we know the prevalence and permissiveness of men getting validated in aggressive behavior, and for blaming the victims of their crimes. Reality is that there is no circumstance where a man or woman has any excuse or reason to initiate assault. A vulnerable person either from drugs, size, age, etc. demands protection from those around them not exploitation. Compassion calls us to care for the weak not abuse them. One desiring or contemplating the abuse of another is totally responsible for any harm that occurs.

    I hate it that my wife and I are spending so much time telling our daughter that she doesn’t need to be out that late, that she needs to suspect men, that they are capable of such things, especially those that know her. We all jump through the hoop, not just women because many men have been excused for the inexcusable for far too long. Kim is right on, there needs to be a dramatic shift in our community vision that calls rape what it is and stop the justifying no matter what the circumstances. I hate living in fear that my daughter (and others) because she is so trusting and gregarious will be an easier target for some jerk. I do not want her to have to change, there is something nice about trusting people and being present and available without fearing them. It is past time to hold people accountable for their actions, so the rest of us can just be ourselves.

    As far as high risk behavior, I have been spun in many a dark place when I was using. I had some interesting experiences; I was not assaulted while slinging dope. That was done in a park on a sunny day by a friend I grew up under.

    Blessings.

  65. 65
    Q Grrl says:

    You know, I honestly tried to come into this thread on rape with an open mind, hoping that, well, we wouldn’t get the same tired bullshit about prevention, the false equivalency between men in high crime districts and the rape of women, and the otherwise general unwillingness to address rape as rape. But I can’t do it. At least not the open mind part.

    Having said that, I fully believe that the ONLY way a woman can control/plan for/avoid/restrict rape is to NOT BE BORN A WOMAN.

    Enough said about that. Now my mind is no longer open and you all can deal with my anger at your (general) unwillingness to address rape per se and to make excuses for the men that rape.

    Virginia writes:

    “Actually, as a health psychology student, I can appreciate your analogy to safety-related behaviors such as looking both ways before crossing the street. ”

    And not to pick on Virginia, but I’m using her very succinct summary of the posts above hers as a launching pad.

    This “analogy” of safety-related behavior assumes that all parties involved wish to avoid the same risks. No two drivers at any given time want to hit each other. The risk is fairly equivalent between both parties. No particular driver wants to hit any particular pedestrian, both believing that the risks outweigh the benefit in any particular situation.

    Rape is none of the above. Rape carries benefits; for those of you unwilling to look at those benefits, the are:

    Male orgasm
    Male access to sex performed on women’s bodies
    Male restriction of women’s access to public space; to include parks, neighborhoods, public facilities (banks, grocery stores, schools, court houses, etc.), government facilities.
    Male restriction of women’s political voices (just go to dKos if you wonder what I mean)
    Male restriction on women in combat
    Male restriction on responsibility for other men
    etc.

    Furthermore, the sidetracking of rape discussions into issues of how men are also socially hurt is complete horseshit. You cannot place rape in a vacuum. Rape co-exists with prohibitions on women’s access to birth control and abortion. Rape co-exists with the institution of marriage. Rape co-exists with socially condoned dating norms.

    Rape is MOST unlike a man getting high off of recreational drugs and walking around in a high crime district.

    In fact, rape has nothing to do with that.

    But, by all means, we should be socializing girls and women differently. We should socialize them to fight back, to look men straight in the eye, to go for the balls everytime.

    WHAT WE SHOULDN’T BE SOCIALIZING THEM FOR IS THAT IF THE FAIL TO DO THIS, THEY DESERVE THE OUTCOME OF AN ACTION FREELY CHOSEN BY A MALE PERPETRATOR.

    How is it that ya’ll are capapble of missing this distinction?

    What year is it anyway? 2005?

  66. 66
    cloudy day says:

    Q grrl wrote:

    “But, by all means, we should be socializing girls and women differently. We should socialize them to fight back, to look men straight in the eye, to go for the balls everytime.”

    I’m fine with that – they can all carry guns, too, as far as I’m concerned. But if they are drunk – they are less able to fight back.

    Do you want them to able to fight back or do you to believe that somehow society is going to change enough (like today) that they will not need to?

  67. 67
    Q Grrl says:

    Uh, I want the stupid pricks that are raping them to admit what they are doing and stop.

    [and frankly I haven't met many human beings that when drunk are *less* likely to fight back... maybe if they're at the point of passing out they are, but then wouldn't that make any man think twice before pulling out his dick and trying to force it inside a woman... ???]

  68. 68
    Susan says:

    Look, you guys and girls, I realize that no one here is ready to hear anything or learn anything they don’t know already, but I’m here to say that a generation ago there were certain social constraints which lowered the chance that anything like this would happen in the first place.

  69. 69
    Spicy says:

    Look, you guys and girls, I realize that no one here is ready to hear anything

    Does that mean you think the women here are ready?

  70. 70
    cloudy day says:

    I would like to see the rape culture to change as much as anyone.

    But here are some stats from the college scene from http://www.edc.org/hec/pubs/factsheets/fact_sheet1.html :

    Misinterpretation is an important factor, but in fact most men who commit acquaintance rapes plan their attacks in advance.6 A typical scenario is for a perpetrator to pressure his date to drink heavily so that she will be less capable of resisting an assault.7

    Rape Settings
    Most incidents of rape take place in the evening. The NCWSV survey suggests that 51.8 percent of completed rapes occur between midnight and 6 A.M., 36.5 percent occur between 6 P.M. and midnight, and 11.8 percent occur between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M.

    Nearly 60.0 percent of on-campus rapes take place in the victim’s residence, 31.0 percent in other housing areas, and 10.3 percent at a fraternity.

    Alcohol Use
    The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 2002 report on college drinking estimates that more than 70,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 survive alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape each year.8

    Alcohol and other drug use exacerbate the problem of misinterpretation of sexual intent but are also used to justify assault.11 Most college men believe that alcohol increases sexual arousal and legitimates nonconsensual sexual aggression. Most also believe that women who have two or more drinks are more interested than other women in having sex.

    —–

    It should also be said that men should curtail their drinking also.

    Also:

    “Since research has found that fraternities, athletics teams, and other male peer groups foster rape-supportive norms, some experts have suggested that prevention programs can be most effective when targeting these types of all-male forums.2″

  71. 71
    mythago says:

    a generation ago there were certain social constraints which lowered the chance that anything like this would happen in the first place

    Quite the opposite. A generation ago, social constraints lowered the chance that a woman would report a rape, so there was little fear of getting punished to discourage rapists, and less sense that rapists (rather than their victims) were to blame.

    Rock, I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I highly recommend you pick up Gavin de Becker’s book Protecting the Gift, which has excellent advice for avoiding those situations, yet doesn’t devolve into victim-blaming or “boys will be boys”.

  72. 72
    maureen says:

    I was raped in 1955. I was 13. The rapists (2) were boys I’d been at school with until a couple of years before when we went to different secondary schools. They were also neighbours in a small rural community. I didn’t report it then because I knew I’d be blamed. This is the frst time I’ve “said” it out loud.

    Does that count?

  73. 73
    Rock says:

    Mythago, thank you.

    Unfortunately I believed the person that did the deed, and believed it was my fault and I was dirty because of it; I bore the shame for many years. (In fact, I still have echo’s that pop up and get me to react, I hate that.) I cannot say that it was the sole factor in my addiction and self abuse, however it was a contributor. The blessing is that I have come to see how that time has been blessed as I Administrate a 92 bed Drug and Alcohol facility and find that many of our folks are suffering from shame based issues that brought them to abuse drugs and themselves. Had I not suffered all those dark hours, I am not sure I could relate as well, and that truly is a blessing. I absolutely hate the shame that dwells in victims and the bullying that is behind the sexual assault. There is nothing as painful as holding a beautiful man suffering from addiction and depression rooted in abuse, knowing he was born perfect, and some twisted person did this to him. On the other side there is nothing more gratifying then sharing that burden so it looses its ability to harm anymore. I am mystified that our society has been willing to support this sort of atrocity, by not calling it what it is; we insure that it will continue to happen.

    Blessings.

  74. 74
    mythago says:

    maureen, of course it counts.

  75. 75
    Radfem says:

    Yeah, Maureen, it does.

    “Do you want them to able to fight back or do you to believe that somehow society is going to change enough (like today) that they will not need to? ”
    ——————————————-

    Bullies don’t pick on people who fight back, so maybe one helps lead to the other, and I think more women have to learn to value themselves enough to fight back, in different ways, individually and communally. Not just physically, but mentally, strategically, emotionally. The right to move freely in society, is not something that is going to be given to us, by men. It would be nice to think so, but it won’t happen, any more than it did with any other right that women had to fight for.

    Young woman, and girls need to see that these rights are being fought for, so they can learn and participate in that and keep it going. But in the meantime, to learn to protect themselves.

    It would be great if you could drink and let your guard down with men, but you can’t. I broke a bone in my hand punching a man in self-defense when I was walking back to dorm intoxicated. I was lucky to even be able to do that but I never was able to touch liquor again.

    We don’t live in that kind of world. We also live in a “fairy tale” culture, to an extent, you know that women are supposed to be passive, swept off their feet. We know that’s not real, but the forcefeeding continues anyway, b/c it serves a purpose for patriarchy. Women are taught as young girls to NEVER kick or hit a man “THERE”. Hey, it’s perfectly okay imo, if you need to get away from someone trying to hurt you, why isn’t that taught to more girls? Check and balance system, imo.

    As much as we want to, as much as it’s not fair, we can’t believe that all men are “nice” and would never hurt women. We know better and a lot of us find out the hard way.

    I think that trying to keep yourself safe, in an unsafe world, and working to change the culture which promotes rape go hand in hand, and not necessarily in conflict. Women protecting themselves and each other, is part of change imo and can be done without assigning “blame” on victims which is stupid.

  76. 76
    Kris says:

    I don’t know exactly what I want to say here, but I’ve been reading through this discussion, and discussions like it, for a few days now. I don’t know why exactly I wrote this except that I wanted to contribute to the discussion and take it back to the only level I know how to honestly talk about, which is my own experience. 8 years ago, I was raped. I met a man at work and he seemed like a nice guy. Me and a couple other (female) coworkers were invited back to his house one evening and we went.

    It was the first time I’d ever used crystal meth. I got higher than high, and when the girlfriends decided to pack it up and go home, I was still sitting on the couch tripping out. I think he invited me to stay and I think I told them I’d be fine. He came over and started getting physical. I let him kiss me and touch me. When he decided he wanted more, I was barely conscious and couldn’t seem to get my body to move. I don’t really remember a whole lot else, just a few images here and there – like watching a movie happening to someone else. I was very, very high. I know that I did not consent.

    For years, I thought that since I didn’t resist or fight back (that I can recall), I was by implication consenting to it.
    I figured that I’d asked for it – I mean how stupid can you get? Staying at a strange man’s house, doing drugs with someone I didn’t know, not having clear boundaries about the kissing and whatnot. But the fact of the matter is, I was very young then. I didn’t understand what was happening. I think sometimes we forget that there can be a disconnect between what we know intellectually and what we live on an everyday basis.

    It’s one of those things like the ‘don’t talk to strangers’ rule, right? You know, you teach your kids all this stuff about never opening the door for a stranger, don’t talk to someone if you’re approached on the street, etc. etc. And then some stranger comes up to your kid and asks for help looking for his or her lost little doggie, and off your kid goes. Why? Because they are too young to understand that some people are bad – unless they have experienced badness first hand. They lack the developmental ability to put the ‘rule’ together with the situation and realize that they should not be talking to this person. In the moment, all they see is some poor man or woman who has lost their little doggie, and they want to help. The person before them is labeled “poor man or woman” in their minds, not “stranger”.

    In the moment, all I saw was a nice guy who wanted to get high. I didn’t see how he was any different from any of the other nice guys that I knew to varying degrees with whom I had previously sat around doing dope. Looking back on it, I can see all the danger signs flashing, but at the time, thinking about rape was the furthest thing from my mind.

    So what I’m saying is, it didn’t occur to me to assess my situation in terms of whether or not it was high risk for sexual assault. I was assessing my situation in terms of: is he interesting, is there more dope, do I know what bus to catch when I’m ready to leave here, do I want to go with my friends or do I want to stay and get high. It never occurred to me to ask the question, ‘is this safe?’

    I feel ambivalent about prevention advice – on the one hand, I look at this situation and think that if I’d followed the ‘rules’, I probably wouldn’t have been raped. On the other hand, I wasn’t very good at following rules back then, and it pains me to think of young women today forced to analyze every situation that involves a man in terms of safety. I hear the argument that just because it’s painful doesn’t make it any less real, but my heart aches at the thought of teaching the women coming after me to be vigilant and wary, instead of relaxed and open. Then I start thinking that the world stinks.

    So that’s my (grey area) view on prevention.

    As for the blame thing, after years of blaming myself, I suddenly have realized that I couldn’t have known better. I had no way of knowing – I wasn’t able to assess the situation in terms of safety because I had no prior experience that suggested the situation needed to be assessed in that way. I was used to lots of people hanging out together, those I knew and those I didn’t, and nothing bad happening. When we are used to getting up everyday and not experiencing an earthquake, we do not expect an earthquake. No wonder we are shaken to the core.

  77. 77
    Virginia says:

    Coming back to this nearly a full year later (because I needed a reference for something I am writing), I just want to note that we all grow and learn and change over time, and in the past year, I have become very critical of the positions I stated here in the summer of 2005. I can no longer use analogies to traffic safety or even illness-risk-reduction. I have come to see and agree that rape and other assaults differ from these in 2 major ways, both of which were alluded to here but I wasn’t prepared to understand last year:
    1) rape and the suggested “risk reducing behaviors” affect women differently than men and perpetuate a system that expects women to limit their freedoms more than men. 2) if I avoid walking out blindly into traffic, it will not lead the person down the street to be hit by the car instead of me. But if I lock all my doors and windows at night, it very well could mean that my neighbor who locked her doors but not her windows will be raped instead. I don’t like that I have caught myself playing the “Weakest Link” game in my mind, trying to determine whether I am the most vulnerable looking person in an area in order to make sure that I won’t be the one targetted for an assault. This can’t solve any of the problem of rape.

  78. 78
    Bowling Green says:

    Without negating the efforts of small groups of men around the world, overall, men as a culture have no intention of stopping rape. In the same way men have broken horses to by forcibly overriding the creature’s will with their will, men ‘break’ women through rape. What is being broken here? The spirit — the connection to self-determination and personal power. Like roping a calf, fighting a bull, etc., they use rape to dominate women in order to control them. And for the most part, they ENJOY it. They practice a code of silence about this practice, and have created rape laws only as a cursory gesture. But these laws are VERY selectively enforced as are prostitution laws. Men want to have access to women’s bodies to masturbate with. There is no love here, it is just masturbation and self-gratification. Women just have to accept that men hate them and that sex to them is the equivalent of a bowel movement and the woman is just their human toilet. If I had a daughter, I’d tell her “if a man wants to have sex with you, don’t take it personally”. It’s not personal. It’s just a physical release like a sneeze or a shit.