Prevention Corner: The Changing Face of Prevention Education

Aug 21st, 1970

By: Erin Leffew, MA, Program Coordinator (Prevention & Education) with Lara Kochnowicz, Intern Every two minutes, a woman is raped, and of those rapes, 80% are carried out by people the victim knows.[1] Prevention and education methods have sought to teach people, especially women, how to protect themselves against rape. This includes important safety tips such as not going down a dark alley at night to take a shortcut home, and instead, sticking to well-lit streets. Or having a designated sober driver whose job also includes making sure everyone gets home safely.[2] Using technology, such as the Circleof6 app, which is discussed in detail in “SafetySync: Circle of 6,” can help individuals have more control over their surroundings and more options if a situation becomes uncomfortable or unsafe. Unfortunately, focusing only on the how an individual should prevent their own rape has bred a culture of victim-blaming that can even be heard in our courts; however, more and more people are speaking out against this victim-blaming. Statements such as “Maybe she shouldn’t have dressed that way” and “She was asking for it” are being questioned by those seeking respect and justice for all people. Since most rapes aren't committed by a stranger, one newer approach teaches men consent versus coercion. It helps men and women understand that saying things like “You can’t expect me to hear all about your hook ups and not think you want to have sex with me,” “I know you dress sexy for me,” and “You hook up with other guys, how am I different?” aren’t ways to get consent. They are coercion. And for any person to say, “The next morning he told me that I shouldn’t have come over so late and drank with him unless I expected to have sex with him, and in not so many words, told me that it was my fault” is unacceptable. Moving beyond traditional “don’t get raped” tactics require that we educate society in an effort to stop rape culture entirely. Removing the responsibility from the victim and placing it on the perpetrator is a key component of this. Teach people, even from the time they are very young, about respect and consent is also vital. But how to we do this? It’s simple to tell people what not to do, but how do we train them to rethink ideas ingrained in them by popular culture, society, and hundreds of years of historical oppression? There are many excellent general resources, such as MCASA and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center where numerous resources can be found. More specifically, some prevention campaigns, such as Consent Is Sexy, are great for beginning the discussion about consent with young people. An incredibly important resource for working with youth and sexual assault is Not Alone, the government program that is for anyone seeking information on responding to and preventing sexual assault on campuses and at schools. Other resources are geared towards certain audiences and purposes, such as engaging men to stop rape. A Call to Men, Men Stopping Violence, and Men Can Stop Rape are excellent examples of male-focused prevention programs that work to dismantle belief systems and social structures and challenge stereotypical aspects of masculinity that are harmful to men, women, and children. Although engaging bystanders is often targeted towards men, everyone can practice it. MCASA’s Speak Up. Speak Out. and Green Dot are specifically about engaging bystanders in college, and MCASA’s Power of 1 also focuses on engaging bystanders. The National Sexual Assault Resource Center provides information on engaging bystanders on their website, as well. There are even resources even more specific, such as Geeks for CONsent, which is an organization that works to make comic conventions safer for women, and Hollaback!, which targets street harassment. There are even unexpected resources like Playboy's "Should You Catcall Her?" This handy flowchart shows the only times it is appropriate to catcall. This diverse collection of resources provides the tools necessary to help create a rape-free culture through education and prevention and are more than just a bandage for the problem. They get at the root causes of rape and work to stop it before it happens. But when it does, there is also help and support, such as at the 17 rape crisis centers in Maryland and SALI. And if it does happen, they should know it’s not their fault. They are not sluts, and there is nothing wrong with them. There is something wrong with the perpetrators and their actions. Everyone can say no because we all have the right to our own bodies, and no one owes it to anyone. [1] "Get the Facts." Get the Facts. Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://www.rccmsc.org/resources/get-the-facts.aspx>. [2] "Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Sexual Assault | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network." RAINN. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <https://rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-prevention>.  

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