The New Prevention Strategy
It is likely that most people will agree that we would like to decrease and ultimately eliminate sexual abuse and assault in our families and communities.
There are however, differing perspectives on how to effectively make this a reality.
Some people hold the notion of offering tips on how to avoid being sexually abused or assaulted, and though this may have people believe that if they act a certain way or avoid certain situations, then they are safe from becoming a victim.
By believing in this “tip method”, we look for patterns, or situations in which people become victims of the crime of sexual violence and avoid doing the things that we think will make us safe (such as walking alone late at night; wearing less “reveling” clothes; taking self defense courses etc..). We then search for mistakes that a person made when they have been assaulted and blame them for not following the tips. We convince ourselves that sexual assault is a crime that has rules, order and can be predictable.
But the reality is that there is no such thing as a “sexual assault prevention tip or prevention tools” for which we can follow to assure ourselves 100% that we will not fall victim to this crime. Sexual assault is only preventable if the person who is committing the crime stops. It is within this person’s control to stop their behaviours. Nothing else! THE ONLY WAY to prevent a sexual assault is for offenders to stop what they are doing. That is the ONLY prevention technique that will end this crime for good.
From Melissa McEwan’s Blog Shakesville:
“I was sober; hardly scantily clad…I was wearing sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt; I was at home; my sexual history was, literally, nonexistent – I was a virgin; I struggled; I said no. There have been many times since when I have been walking home, alone, after a few drinks, wearing something that night have shown a bit of leg or cleavage, and I wasn’t raped. The difference was not in what I was doing. The difference was the presence of a rapist.”
Sexual Assault tips serve to only regulate behavior, and create boundaries of acceptable “female conduct”. As women we are supposed to follow these “rules” and if we step outside them and a crime of violence occurs, then we are told that it is our own fault and that in some way we were deserving of it. This again reinforces that there is a specific type of person who gets assaulted, which in reality is far from the truth.
We need to rethink prevention. We need to look at other ways of addressing strategies to reduce the crime of sexual violence. We need to step outside of some of the beliefs that we may hold from the messages that we may have learned and re-educate ourselves on ways to eliminate this crime.
What can I do to stop sexual violence?
- Challenge your own views
- Teach and Practice Healthy Relationships
- Talk to the children in your life
- Don’t tolerate jokes about sexual assault
- Challenge the myths…
- Challenge the notion of women as “objects of men’s desires”
- Be Aware of Messages in the Media
- Recognize the Power of Language
- Get Involved
- Hold Accountable Individuals Who Offend
- ‘New’ Sexual Assault Prevention Tips
Challenge your own views
Even the most experienced workers in the field of sexual abuse and assault must constantly keep their own biases, values and beliefs in check. Each one of us were raised in communities that teach inaccurate perspectives on not only sexual abuse and assault but on different groups of people. It is impossible to remove yourself from your own experiences and beliefs when supporting others, but it is essential that you pay attention to judgments and assumptions that arise. Make note of them and take the time to debrief with a trusted peer or supervisor. These are opportunities to reflect on your own views and the way that they may impact your work with others.
Teach and Practice Healthy Relationships
There are many types and styles of relationships, including sexual relationships; casual, monogamous, long-term and exclusive etc. These relationships can be caring, loving, distant, abusive and can have any combination of these qualities.
One’s own needs and wants in sexual relationships can evolve over time and each person gets to decide what’s comfortable for them. In any case, each person’s relationships and sexuality should make them feel better about themselves and add quality to their life.
Talking about our sexual needs and desires can be frightening and uncomfortable, even within a loving and trusting relationship. Lots of people grew up learning that talking about sex is dirty or impolite, or may make them appear to be promiscuous. They may fear that their partner’s feelings will be hurt or be challenged about what they are expressing. It takes time and practice to develop clear ways of stating your sexual needs and wants in a relationship. It is however, an important part of developing healthy ways of being in a sexual relationship, avoiding miscommunication, hurt feelings and assumptions.
Be open and honest when discussing sex with your partner. Listen to your partner and respect his/her choice. Everyone has the right to set their own sexual limits and to say no to a sexual act. If you are unclear if the other person wants to engage in sexual activity with you ask. Respect your partner and the choice that you both make
Healthy communication in every relationship is key for helping one another understand our needs, desires and thoughts. It helps each of us to feel better understood, cared about, respected and can increase our sense of trust in a relationship. Poor communication skills can lead to assumptions, disagreements and misunderstandings.
Check out http://www.healthysex.com/
Talk to the children in your life
In early childhood children learn problem-solving, emotional management, and social skills that form the basis of their relationship later in life, and it is also the time when children form views on gender roles, relationships and the acceptability of aggression and violence. Children learn much of this from the people around them, so it is essential that positive parenting and home environments free from violence (WHO, 2007)
Child sexual abuse violates a child’s physical and emotional boundaries. Therefore, children need a sense of healthy boundaries and body ownership in order for them to know the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.
In order for children to understand child sexual abuse, they need the following:
Sense of Body Ownership
- Teach your children to respect their body and the bodies of others.
- Ask your children for their permission to give them a hug, kiss, etc.
- As a parent, model your own right to say no and to decide what is right for your body.
- Give your children the facts about their whole body and the names for their private. parts, and include the mouth as a private part.
Sense of Healthy Boundaries
- Model healthy boundaries by asserting your own privacy and giving your children the opportunity to let you know when they would like privacy.
- Tell your child that his or her body and private parts are private.
- Talk to your child about how “okay” touches feel different from “not okay” touches.
- Believe, normalize and validate when your child tells you how he or she is feeling.
Also talk to your child about how child sexual abuse might make a child feel. Talk about the wide range of feelings that can result from abuse.
- Ask your child to think about how a child might feel if he or she was touched on his or her private parts for no good reason by someone he or she knows (confused, sad, scared, angry, worried, etc.)
- Also tell your child that a touch to a child’s private parts may feel “good” to his or her body. If this happens it does not mean the touch is the child’s fault, or that the touch is okay. It is normal for our body’s to react in a way to touches that we have no control over.
It is also important to teach your child that when child sexual abuse happens, it is usually done by someone the child knows.
- Start by asking your child who he or she thinks usually sexually abuses kids.
- Let your child know that it is usually done by someone the child knows. Make a list with your child of all the different kinds of people that kids know (i.e. aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, babysitters, etc.)
- Let your child know that any of these people could sexually abuse a child.
Don’t tolerate jokes about sexual assault
“You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alleyway.”
If you ask almost anyone, they’ll agree that sexual assault and abuse are not ok. It’s a horrific crime that hurts children, women, men, families and communities. It’s used in war as a weapon to degrade and humiliate. The thought of it happening to a friend, partner or family member is enough to lead someone to threaten to kill another. Yet… there are an endless number of rape jokes on movies, the internet, Facebook, television shows, on stand-up stages and in classrooms. What’s so funny about sexual abuse and assault? Is it ever ok to joke about sexual assault? Are people who object to this genre of humour lacking a funny bone?
It doesn’t really matter that the person who is telling the joke is a ‘really good guy’, that he would never actually sexually assault anyone. Considering the prevalence rate of sexual violence, chances are someone who has been impacted by this crime will be in the vicinity of the jokester
The message that sexual assault is laughable, making light of the fears, anxiety and for many, the reality of being sexually assaulted decreases the likelihood that a person will feel that their own experience will be taken seriously.
Laughing at these jokes also helps a person who has been assaulted to easily identify those individuals who are not safe to talk to about their own experiences, for fear of minimization and perhaps disbelief.
By not taking sexual abuse and assault seriously, it supports the widespread denial of the existence of sexual violence in each one of our communities.
Being the only one to not laugh at a joke can be hard. It can feel like you have no sense of humour, or can’t take a joke. The truth is, it makes you a safe person for someone to talk to about sexual assault. It teaches the people you are with that you don’t think sexual assault is funny and neither should they.
Challenge the myths…
The myths are simply wrong and misinformed information about sexual abuse and assault. Learn the myths and challenge them. Become educated and informed! Child Sexual Abuse Myths, Sexual Assault Myths, Sexual Assault Myths for Men.
Challenge the notion of women as “objects of men’s desires”
“Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence towards that person.” – Jean Kilbourne
The idea that women are objects has been strongly linked to gender based violence. Viewing any person or group of people as less than whole human beings who are intelligent, emotional, spiritual and physical allows us to begin to disregard and disrespect their needs, goals and personal agency. When women are viewed as sexual objects, it creates a climate where sexual assault is justified or even viewed as a form of flattery. Messages that convey female submission to male domination minimizes both the sexual agency that women require to be in healthy relationships and to be respected as whole human beings and the subsequent sexual violence that exists when women’s sexual decision making power is removed.
Be Aware of Messages in the Media
It is common for people to express concern about the amount of sex and sexuality portrayed in the media. Modern culture is full of messages that promote sexual assault and sexual abuse. On one hand, men are often portrayed as warriors or aggressors. The stereotypical male hero tends to be strong, unemotional, and sexually dominant. On the other hand, women are often portrayed as sexual objects or victims. Studies have shown that these types of messages may predispose men to violence against women. Pay attention to how gender is portrayed in movies, TV shows, video games, and other media. Spend some time reflecting on how these depictions have impacted your own life. Engage your friends and family members in discussions about these messages.
Recognize the Power of Language
As mentioned at the beginning of this workshop, the language that we use to talk about men, women, children, sex, sexual abuse and sexual assault all help to shape our ideas and expectations around these issues. Using language that degrades and objectifies women contributes to gender inequality, which is strongly connected with an increased incidence of sexual violence. Phrases like ‘she’s my b—ch’ and ‘don’t be a pu—y’ place women in a markedly lower position.
Slang such as “That test raped me” or “We raped the other team” trivializes sexual assault. To clarify, sexual assault (rape) is not:
- Losing in a sporting event
- Failing an exam
- A surprise
- A debate or argument
Examples from Public Figures:
Quote from Johnny Depp comparing a photoshoot to a sexual assault:
‘You just feel like you’re being raped somehow,’ he said. ‘Raped… It feels like a kind of weird… just weird, man.’
Quote from Kristen Stewart (from the Twilight Movies) comparing the experience of being photographed by the Paparazzi to a sexual assault:
‘I feel like I’m looking at someone being raped. A lot of the time I can’t handle it. I never expected that this would be my life,’ she said.
‘What you don’t see are the cameras shoved in my face and the bizarre intrusive questions being asked, or the people falling over themselves, screaming and taunting to get a reaction.
Quote from Rainn Wilson (Dwight from the tv series the Office) around the issue of sexual violence:
“If I were ever date raped I would want it to be to ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin,”
Become part of the community to end sexual violence.
Support organizations that work to stop sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Start or attend movements in your community.
Objectives might include improvements on communication, Relationship skills, promotion of equitable gender norms and rights, equipping bi-standers to speak out and act to prevent violence, and challenging the social norms and individual beliefs at the root of intimate-partner violence and sexual violence
Use your voting voice and awareness to influence legislative decision making. Express your opinions to your legislators. Vote to support legislators who are working to improve laws about sexual assault. Challenge public figures who perpetuate negative stereotypes and contribute to oppression.
Hold Accountable Individuals Who Offend
Legal reform and strengthening criminal justice responses: The power of laws to act as a deterrent relies on their enforcement; if potential offenders perceive that their violent act will be reported and they will be prosecuted, that perception might deter them. There is little evidence however regarding the deterrent effect of criminal justice system responses to intimate partner violence and sexual violence, and reporting and conviction rates continue to be minimal, particularly for sexual violence.
The criminal justice system must include clear laws and policies with effective enforcement; training for police, prosecutors and judges; appropriate sentences; input from individuals affected by sexual assault and sexual abuse, and coordinated interagency responses for individuals affective.
Support comprehensive treatment for people who offend.
‘New’ Sexual Assault Prevention Tips
- Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.
- When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
- If you pull over to help someone with their car problems, remember not to assault them.
- NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
- If you are in an elevator and someone walks in, don’t assault them.
- 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.
- 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 do not communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
- Don’t forget: You can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake and consent!
- Carry a whistle! If you’re worried you might assault someone ‘accidentally’ you can hand it to the person you’re with so they can blow it if you do.
- Don’t assault people!
To see all of CCASA’s Tips Tuesday social media posts please see the PDF file below: