Thanks to a Slymepitter (papillon) doing some good research, I have decided to respond to an article by Greta Christina on rape prevention campaigns directed at the rapist working.
Now, we should all know off the top that Greta Christina appears to have a desire for this to be true (as, to be honest, do I). Her concern is that rape prevention campaigns tend to be directed at safety (which she considers victim-blaming). She wished to obtain some data that proved that. Her triumphant article is here.
Greta says that:
[About safety campaigns being effective] I don’t ever want to hear this again. Not just because it’s part of the exact victim-blaming rape culture we’re talking about. Not just because this business of rapists being just a handful of sociopaths — as opposed to active members of society who you might know — is bullshit. I don’t want to hear it again… because it’s just flatly not true.
The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is a public service rape prevention campaign launched in Edmonton in 2010, and adopted by other cities in Canada, which took the radical step of aiming its message, not at potential rape victims, but at potential rapists. It took the radical step of educating potential rapists about what rape actually is. It recognized the role that alcohol commonly plays in rape — and it educates potential rapists that having sex with someone who doesn’t consent, or who is too drunk to consent, or who is passed out and therefore unable to consent, is rape.
I’m going to say that again, since it’s the big take-home message from this piece: A rape prevention campaign targeted at potential rapists rather than potential victims was launched… and the number of reported sexual assaults fell by 10 per cent.
This was a one-shot public service campaign: a series of posters distributed in bars, nightclubs, transit stations and campus facilities. And it still had the apparent result of reducing the rate of rape by 10%.
As papillon pointed out in the Pit, her numbers are a bit shaky on this one. I expand a little bit on what papillon said:
- The 9.8% drop is in sexual assault (not rapes). Greta equivocates from at one point saying “A rape prevention campaign targeted at potential rapists rather than potential victims was launched… and the number of reported sexual assaults fell by 10 per cent” to “And it still had the apparent result of reducing the rate of rape by 10%.” Rape and sexual assault are very different things. Sexual assault is a much broader term.
- Greta also say that the “Edmonton police were so convinced of the campaign’s effectiveness…“. That may well be, but it could be inferred (as she hadn’t said anywhere what the results in Edmonton were) that the Edmonton statistics were just as promising (leaving aside matters of causation versus correlation). The rapes were actually UP in Edmonton. (http://www.theunexpectedtnt.com/2012/01/partial-success-dont-be-that-guy.html)
Sad as it is, I think there’s a bit of confirmation bias in this article. While we want rape-prevention-campaigns to be aimed at rapists and succeed, the jury’s out.
If we were getting the same results from a homeopathic potion, we’d be laughing at them all the way down the comments thread of Greta’s article.
The reason the conversation turns to how to prevent rape (from the victim’s perspective) is that they’re the more surefire way to prevent it. The people who WANT to prevent rape are those who might be victimised by it. The people who don’t want to prevent rape are those who are going to do it. As christophernicholas said on Greta’s article, there’s a clear difference between saying “that parking lot is a dangerous place at night,” vs. “it’s your own fault if you get raped in that parking lot.””.
I’d like to draw an analogy between lions and people going into the jungle. We don’t train the lions to stay away because we know they’re not going to care or listen. Screw it, they’re lions. What we do is educate people about lion safety, take steps on lions known to attack and set up systems to scare away lions (seehttp://www.dogonews.com/2012/10/28/young-boys-brilliant-invention-ensures-harmony-between-man-and-beast/page/18). This is done without any hint of us wandering up to the lion attack victims and saying “You deserved it, you moron. We told you not to get attacked by lions.”
I am all for these advertisements continuing, but saying that it WORKS isn’t quite possible yet.
And we shouldn’t be ready to say so just because we want it to be true.
Update: a question for my (many?) readers: I’ve had someone raise this with me. Is it sexist to think that an ordinary non-sociopathic man would be stupid enough to think rape was okay until they saw these types of ads?
Edit: minor edits for italicisation and changed “you haven’t” to “she hadn’t”.