May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. This year, Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, along with a brilliant crew of women’s groups, borrowed the slogan “Men Can Stop Rape.”
We held a panel, made up entirely of men, speaking to the ways they work to end sexual assault. Instead of our old, standard, women’s self-defence classes, we’re holding a sex-positive workshop on consent, safer sex and condom negotiation. We’ve published the controversial Top 10 Tips To End Rape posters and handbills.
The 10 Tips are things like “Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks” and “Carry a rape whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone ‘by accident,’ you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can call for help.” Finally it says, “Don’t rape.”
The 10 Tips have really stirred up some controversy. We’re not shy of controversy – it means people are communicating about the topic of rape – but there are some points we’d like to clarify.
Our intent is to replace this current rape culture – the one that communicates its complicity through its silence – with a culture in which men call out other men, with a culture that joyously celebrates consensual expressions of sexuality – in which there is no room for sexualized violence.
Women have been told for eons that stopping rape is up to us. We’re bombarded with tips for keeping ourselves safe. But the thing is this:
Women’s self-defence classes can’t stop rape.
Women dressing conservatively can’t stop rape.
Women arming themselves can’t stop rape.
Women staying indoors after dark can’t stop rape.
Women can protect themselves, and be afraid, dress conservatively, and stay indoors.
And we will still be raped.
And when we are, all these lessons communicate that somehow – that victim of rape is to blame for being assaulted. She has failed to protect herself.
When really, in order to stop rape: Rapists need to stop raping.
We need education around the definition of rape.
Young people need to systematically learn about communication and consent.
We all need to break the silence around sexualized assault and interrupt cycles of violence.
We need to recognize that rape is not incidental or uncontrollable, but a deliberate act.
We need to ensure that a woman’s dignity is respected when she reports rape – that she is heard, believed, understood and respected. The judicial system needs to believe women, to represent women victims of sexualized assault more effectively, and to treat us with dignity.
Police need to do the same. So do our friends. And our families and communities need to hear us, believe us, understand and respect us.
Because until men step up en masse – until the few men who do this work are joined by a majority of men – calling out rape jokes and sexism amongst their friends, actively working for equality, being consistently loving, respectful role models, and working alongside women’s groups – we will still be raped.
Men can stop rape. It’s time to step up and do it.
Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre