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More on the rape education debate. August 10, 2005

Posted by Winter in rape.

Following on from the great commentary on a few blogs recently including gender geek , Brutal women and Birds Eye view I saw this article on the BBC and wanted to explore the other side of the rape debate, i.e. what are the police supposed to advise if not ‘stay at home, don’t go out, get a big strong man to protect you’? To bring people up to speed there seems to be a gang of South African men have been abducting and raping women in the late hours of the night in Nottingham. 3 rapes and two abductions have been reported in the last three days and the police have asked women not to leave their houses alone after dark.

The reason I wanted to pick up this story is that this clearly represents the cases that the media are more accustomed to reporting, violent abductions, head injuries and unknown perpetrators. The advice given by the police, stay at home, don’t go anywhere alone after dark, is the kind of advice often criticised by some feminists as encouraging a victim mentality and as being unpractical. Why I agree with both of these arguments, it does beg the question; what the police are supposed to say or do in situations like this when there clearly is a specific danger? While I am uncomfortable with any form of action that encourages victimisation, I have to also conclude, that in this situation, the police are provided with very few options and in this case i think that the advice given is clearly warranted.

However, most situations are very unlike this one. I was talking to Winter yesterday and we were considering that, whilst it is easy enough to criticise the actions of the authorities, the media and the beauty industry, quite often we fall short in offering any real alternatives. What advice would be better for the police to give in those times when there is not a specific threat but rather a more of a ubiquitous ‘rapists are out there in the world somewhere’ type of threat? While I’m obviously not a member of the police force and so can’t speak for policies made by them, I thought this would be a good place to list some of the alternative strategies that feminists have contributed to the debate in the last few months.

1) Give all girls self defence classes at school, early on
2) Education programs with boys and girls in school as to what rape actually is in all its subtle forms
3) Guidelines for women that aren’t limited to ‘stay inside, pull the covers over your head and don’t go anywhere without a chaperone ever’. For example, walk confidently, with your head high so as not to look like a victim, carry some kind of aerosol deodorant and a rape alarm.
4) Education projects with older men about rape and what they can do to stop it.
5) Sensible, non hysterical awareness raising campaigns like this one from the truth about rape.
5) Bring in more men’s groups on the rape debate because the majority of rapists are men, so addressing men may be a good place to start.

Ok, I’d quite like this to be an on going list so everybody please feel free to contribute and tear me down as you see appropriate.




1. Winter - August 11, 2005

I don’t think the police have much choice in the kind of advice the give regarding the recent attacks. But these gang rapes are obviously extreme incidents and, for this reason, precisely the kind of thing the media loves. I really hope they catch these guys soon.

Anyway, in answer to your proposals:

1. Yes. I think introducing rape education (we won’t actually call it that!) into schools is vital and it HAS to include the boys. I think there should be classes and workshops for kids focussing on what rape is and, especially, on issues of consent.

2. I also agree that we need self-defence classes for girls in schools. This is not to encourage them to view themselves as always vulnerable to attack. I think self-defence can work to raise girl’s general confidence and self-esteem. There is lot to be gained from simply knowing how you would handle yourself in a nasty situation. Fear of rape is tied up with not knowing what to do to protect yourself.

3. A general conciousness raising campaign directed at men. For this to work, it would be essential to take a non-accusatory tone. As soon as men feel they are being lumped in with the rapists they shut down on this issue. What we need to do is encourage them to think about their complicity in a culture that uses rape to terrorise women.

4. Yes, show solidarity and give support to men’s groups trying to campaign against gender-based violence.

5. Resist rape spam! Write alternative feminist rape spam and get it circulating.

I’m sure I’ll think of some more before the day is out!


2. Winter - August 12, 2005

I saw this awful story on Volsungaabout a young woman who’s been raped by her ex-boyfriend. The discussion among the commentators raises a lot of important issues about the difficulties involved in naming, reporting and seeking help for rape.

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