For years, many have noticed that there’s a problem with the way we talk about rape prevention. Too often, it focuses on what women need to do so that they don’t invite rape. Don’t walk in a dark alley alone. Don’t wear short skirts. Don’t lead a guy on. Don’t drink alcohol. On and on go the lists of ways that women can “protect themselves” against sexual assault. In response to this, some people started making creepy ads that show a guy going to far, then saying, “Hey, don’t be this guy!” Men were cast as horrible potential threats who constantly had to battle their inner demons just to keep from ripping random people’s clothes off. That wasn’t effective or fair when it comes to rape prevention either.
Finally, someone has figured out that there’s a way to discuss rape prevention without victim-blaming or implying that all men are evil. Believe it or not, a new program from Scotland manages to be positive and still address a really serious and important topic. The “We Can Stop It” campaign comes from the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, and man do I wish that it could make its way over to the US. This is an amazing way to raise awareness.
The campaign features men of all shapes and sizes affirming that they respect a person’s choice, and their ability to make that choice every time. There are guys pictured saying, “I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t pressure his girlfriend to have sex. Are you?” Another reads, “I know when she’s asleep, it’s a no. Do you?” The message is clear. There are respectful and awesome men out there, and you should try to be one of them!
A campaign this thoughtful does not come without plenty of hardwork and thought. The association that created it spent plenty of time and energy consulting with partner organizations, academics and focus groups. They cared about getting this outreach program right. Assistant Chief Constable Graham Sinclair said, “The tone and language of the campaign marks a significant shift in approach to raising awareness of sexual offences legislation, and I hope that it will help remind men that they are in complete control of their behaviour.”
Did you hear that? Men can control their behavior! No mention of a short skirts anywhere! It’s possible that we just have really low expectations, but this campaign is amazing. I truly hope that it will inspire PSA-makers here in America to follow their lead, or at least to re-examine their own methods.
Yes, rape prevention is a touchy subject. That makes it difficult to talk about. But I think this campaign proves that it is not impossible. We can make promote awareness without shaming victims or insulting men. How about we start doing that now.