Monday, 31 December 2012

Anti Rape Campaigns

The myth of rape being an exclusively a woman’s problem has begun to fade away, in more senses than one. Not only has it become more acceptable to admit that rape is a crime committed against both sexes, but more encouragingly, rape prevention is a responsibility that is slowly spreading to be a universal duty.

In modern culture, rape is a grey area. Each case is examined, with percentages of blame assigned to victim and perpetrator based on the circumstances. In a petty robbery, one does not ask the victim how they were holding their wallet or purse. One does not ask where they were when they were robbed, at what time, nor scold them for not having a handbag that zips and shuts or a secret compartment where they keep their valuables. We recognize that robbery is a risk and there are reasonable precautions to be taken against it, but we simultaneously acknowledge that ultimately, the only way to prevent thievery is for the thieves themselves to abstain from it. Yet when a person is raped, it is not only the details of the event that are meticulously examined, but the individual’s past sexual history, orientation and emotional stability. A degree of ‘victimhood’ is established by how much alcohol was consumed, whether the victim is promiscuous, whether or not the victim was in a relationship with the person or whether or not the victim was initially interested. None of these, however, directly impact on a specific and crucial moment when consent is given or denied.

Despite this, anti-rape campaigns have long been targeted towards potential victims. While sensible advice – don’t drink to excess, don’t dress too provocatively, never drink something you haven’t poured yourself – the fact that preventative measures were consistently presented as being entirely in the hands of the potential victims mean that, subconsciously, the responsibility for the crime shifted. The result was the idea that rapists are somewhat less culpable for their crimes. After all, if we are constantly told, for example, not to drink to the point where we cannot give adequate consent, it becomes our fault if we do, and anything that happens as a result thereof is simply an extension of our failure. It has become our responsibility to be able to withhold and give consent, through our dress, our sobriety and our location rather than the responsibility of others to ensure that our consent is freely and adequately given, regardless of circumstance.  

Recognizing this, 2012 brought in a new species of anti-rape campaign which was heartening in its approach and variety. In the now well-known ‘
Men Can Stop Rape’ and Canada’s ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ campaign, the onus is put on men to stop themselves committing rape. Through recognizing when their partner or a woman is unwilling or unable to consent to sexual activity, the campaign operates on the fundamental tenet that common decency is the bare minimum we should expect of our male population. They have released a series of posters that show couples of differing ages, races and even sexual orientation with sentences that should be the norm. For example, “I couldn’t tell if she wanted to, so I asked.” “She changed her mind, so I stopped.” Britain has also taken up the torch, launching a controversial advertisement in which a male watches himself pressure his girlfriend into sex and screams at himself to stop. While disturbing, it is an important and powerful message which reminds us of the agency of the perpetrator, something which we (somewhat disturbingly) often overlook.

Rape is a crime of power which violently robs a victim of their most fundamental of needs – that of a sense of security. To suggest that they somehow asked for or deserved their misfortune is as shameful as committing the act itself. This new brand of anti-rape campaign, while a small step, are a heartening reminder that the fight for women’s rights is becoming more globally accepted, and adopted by men as much as it is by women.

By Farahnaz Mohammed

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