This week I was linked to and subsequently extremely angered by the @EndingRape twitter account, which in the past week or two has focused on “ending rape” mainly by giving women the sort of “NEVER WALK AT NIGHT! ALWAYS WATCH YOUR DRINK! DON’T WEAR HEADPHONES WHILE JOGGING!” fear-heightening tips that I’ve complained about here before. Scrolling back some more turns up a few comments that I do agree with (mostly retweets, not original content), but those “helpful tips” put a pretty terrible taste in my mouth.
The website affiliated with the twitter account has an enlightening profile of author/speaker Richard Hart, who’s styling himself as a lone manly voice of information on rape prevention. It really creeps me the fuck out that his bio paints a picture of a brave man standing up to fight the Good Fight against rape by framing anti-rape work as something you do to protect your daughters and/or save your educational institution a bunch of money in lost fees, not so much because rape is fucking terrible and people (not just women!) deserve better.
Whose job is it, by the way to prevent rape? Judging by the titles of his books (Keep Your Daughter Safe: 171 Ways Young Women can Prevent Sexual Assault, Keep Your College Daughter Safe: 161 Ways College Women can Prevent Sexual Assault, and Preventing Sexual Assault: 171 Ways Women can Prevent Sexual Assault), the answer is clear: WOMEN.* Better start memorizing, ladies, until you know all 171 Ways by heart! But don’t fret – if your pretty little brains are burned out from all that book-learnin’ in college, you can ignore ten of those tips and you’ll be just fine.
How lovely, that the “expert” way to deal with rape is to load women down with a list of rules to abide by to keep scary, shadowy Bad Guys from raping them. If he had an equivalent program of talking to men about how to respect women’s bodies, not coerce partners into sexual activity, honor people’s boundaries and limits, and stand up to other guys pushing boundaries or making rape “jokes,” that would be one thing – the lists would still be terrible, but at least I would have a sense that Hart is aware of the reality of most rape and sexual assault situations. But of course he is completely silent on that side of things, and the end result is that he’s giving women this huge burden of responsibility to abide by a restrictive code of conduct and live in a constant state of high alert in order to prevent something that other people consciously choose to do.
The statistics quoted on this website do mention that most rapists are people known to their victim, but that fact isn’t reflected in the tips (at least the ones posted on the twitter account or in excerpts on the website); they are very focused on stranger-in-the-bushes rape, and not acquaintance or date rape at all. So ultimately, even if things like “KEEP THE BUSHES TRIMMED OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE! NEVER USE INTERIOR STAIRWELLS!” could somehow eliminate 100% of stranger rape, they’d still be pretty unhelpful in the grand scheme of things.
*Note that in Hart’s world, apparently, all rapists are men and all rape survivors are women.