Monday, May 3, 2010

Will Self-Defense Classes Be Taught in San Diego Schools?

[Video embedded after the jump]

My first thought upon watching this clip was "Awesome! I wish more cities would implement something like this!" But then I thought some more about the approach/language used ("The idea here is to not focus on the bad guys. Instead focus on the potential victims.") and the comparatively minuscule efforts to target the actual people most responsible for committing rape: men. While I fully support and applaud Sen. Christine Kehoe's efforts, I can't help but feel frustrated that she isn't also pushing for rape prevention education aimed at young men.

Have you seen this excellent piece of satire floating around the internet that manipulates all those "rape prevention" tips aimed at women? I kinda wish it could be posted all over the place in real life too.
Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!
  1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior. 
  2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
  3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!
  4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
  5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!
  6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room. 
  7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public. 
  8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
  9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake! 
  10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.
And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are commiting a crime- no matter how “into it” others appear to be.
 Reading this list might throw you for a moment because--gasp--it's talking to men about all the things you as a young woman have had drilled into your head for years and years. Don't go out alone. Don't go out at night, period. Don't drink. Don't be honest with others about how much you enjoy sex. This list could go on and on but I'll stop here because I'm sure you're already overly familiar with the types of messages I'm talking about.

As my blogger-crush of the week Heather Corinna at Scarleteen explains in her post How You Guys--that's right, you GUYS--Can Prevent Rape,
Rape is often framed as about women, but it's not. Something done TO us really isn't about us. It's the things that we choose to do which are about us, which is why it's such an error for rape to be framed as a women's issue or about women: it's almost always a men's issue and really about men.
Took the words right out of my mouth.

So, what can men do to stop sexual violence against women? This list of suggestions comes from the Florida Council against Sexual Violence.
  • Be aware of language. Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. We live in a society in which derogatory words are often used to put women down. Such language sends a message that females are less than fully human. When women are seen as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights and ignore their well-being.
  • Communicate. Sexual violence often goes hand in hand with poor communication. Our discomfort with talking honestly and openly about sex dramatically raises the risk of rape. By learning effective sexual communication -- stating your desires clearly, listening to your partner, and asking when the situation is unclear -- men make sex safer for themselves and others.
  • Speak up. You will probably never see a rape in progress, but you will see and hear attitudes and behaviors that degrade women and promote rape. When your best friend tells a joke about rape, say you don't find it funny. When you read an article that blames a rape survivor for being assaulted, write a letter to the editor. When laws are proposed that limit women's rights, let politicians know that you won't support them. Do anything but remain silent.
  • Support survivors of rape. Rape will not be taken seriously until everyone knows how common it is. One out of every four women and one in seven men will be sexually assaulted during their lives. By learning to sensitively support survivors in their lives, men can help both women and other men feel safer to speak out about being raped and let the world know how serious a problem rape is.
  • Contribute your time or money. Join or donate to an organization working to prevent violence against women. Rape crisis centers, domestic violence agencies and men's anti-rape groups count on donations for their survival and always need volunteers to share the workload.
  • Talk with women... about how the risk of being raped affects their daily lives; about how they want to be supported if it has happened to them; about what they think men can do to prevent sexual violence. If you're willing to listen, you can learn a lot from women about the impact of rape and how to stop it.
  • Talk with men... about how it feels to be seen as a potential rapist; about the fact that 10-20% of all males will be sexually abused in their lifetimes; about whether they know someone who's been raped. Learn about how sexual violence touches the lives of men and what we can do to stop it.
  • Organize. Form your own organization of men focused on stopping sexual violence. Men's anti-rape groups are becoming more and more common around the country, especially on college campuses.
  • Don't ever have sex with anyone against his or her will. No matter what!
One men's organization worthy of your time and respect is Men Can Stop Rape. Their website has tons of great resources related to ending sexual violence against women. For example, take a look at their state-by-state list of men's anti-rape organizations and pass it on to the guys in your life. I've seen their Strength Media campaign posters around and I have to say I like them. Gotta love any anti-rape campaign that's bilingual, acknowledges racial diversity, gays & lesbians, and the prevalence of sexual assault within the military. Here are some of my favorites:

Here are some other organizations and (hopefully) useful links related to ending sexual violence:

What do you think about all of this? What steps do you think men can take toward ending rape? 

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Blogger Sheila said...

Excellent post- it is indeed tragic how commonplace it is to blame the victims of rape and sexual assault. In some cases it is so institutionalized and ingrained in the minds of police officers, judges, prosecutors, medical personnel and sadly even in the victims' themselves that the possibility of justice becomes remote. Programs that focus on what women can do to prevent rape are ultimately still placing the impetus on women.

I am reminded of a rendition of The Vagina Monologues that was put on by my campus several months ago that still to this day does not sit well with me. During the closing remarks, two female performers asked the audience members to stand if they were victims of sexual violence or knew anyone who had been victims of rape or sexual violence. As you can imagine, plenty of people stood up, eager to make a show of solidarity in a packed auditorium. The performers than proclaimed that in going to the performance and standing up, we were all helping to end violence against women that very night.

Yes, recognition is important, and so is giving voice to the voiceless, which is one of the points of The Vagina Monologues. BUT
it is simply not enough to ask a crowd of college students if they know of victims. I wonder, what would have happened had they instead asked questions like these: Will those in the audience who have ever acted in a sexually violent or aggressive act towards another person, whether you were drunk, whether you didn't mean to or felt sorry or ashamed afterward, please stand up? Will anyone who has ever made or laughed at a joke that encourages or makes light of such violence please stand up?

I could easily come up with more, but the point I am trying to make is that it is easy to stand beneath the banner of victimhood. It is something else altogether, however, to seek out and address the perpetrators themselves. It is difficult because more often than not, we are acquainted with them- they are family members, they are roommates, they are work buddies, they are lovers or friends of friends.

A more successful approach to ending violence against women would be one that addresses not only the victims, but the (potential) perpetrators as well. I think the Men Can Stop Rage organization is a good example of this.

May 3, 2010 at 9:34 PM  

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