[OPINION | Dash of SAS] Dear PNP, this is how you write a rape prevention ad

Ana P. Santos
[OPINION | Dash of SAS] Dear PNP, this is how you write a rape prevention ad
'Telling women not to dress a certain way, drink too much, or walk in a dark alley alone at night is just pointless'

Dear PNP, 

You probably meant well when you released yet another rape prevention ad last month, but once again you missed the point. The PNP Angono station also came out with a problematic rape prevention poster some time ago.

In both ads, the “tips” you listed are all targeted at women. If you really want to prevent rape, you need to start targeting your rape prevention ads at men. 

Why?

Most acts of sexual violence are perpetrated by men. 

A global survey shows that about 90% of perpetrators of reported acts of sexual violence are men. Factors like low education and exposure to environments where violence was normalized, such as a history of maltreatment as a child, or witnessing violence against their mothers, make men more likely to commit acts of sexual violence. Other factors include alcohol abuse and unequal gender norms that promote men’s entitlement over women.

Men are not born violent. A whole societal ecosystem promotes and encourages violent behavior. We need to start changing the way society treats and talks to men. And we need to stop thinking that it is only the woman’s responsibility to do so.

Most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim.

Trust is a sexual predator’s access to the victim. Numbers show that most of the time, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows and trusts. An acquaintance, a relative, or an intimate partner. 

About one in 5 homicides is carried out by an intimate partner or family member, and women and girls make up the vast majority of those deaths.

Think about that for a moment. The perpetrator is in your home, in your school, or in your office. Places that you would think are safe spaces. In that context, telling women not to dress a certain way, drink too much, or walk in a dark alley alone at night is just pointless. 

Most acts of sexual violence go unreported.

This is attributed to a variety of reasons. The inherent shame in admitting that you have experienced sexual violence.  Fear that you may not be believed or will be blamed for what happened. The far-reaching ramifications of exposing the perpetrator who is known to you. 

Rape and sexual prevention ads that put the burden of prevention on women reinforces the fear that they will be blamed for acts of sexual violence. It prevents them from reporting incidents, feeding into the vicious cycle of these crimes not being reported and violators not being held accountable. Making violators feel like they can get away with a crime – essentially, a sense of impunity – is one way we allow these crimes to continue. 

So what can we do? What would a sexual violence prevention ad targeted at men look like?

It would tell them to:

Choose your words carefully, because words matter

The way that we speak to each other and about each other is a reflection of how we see one other. Quite simply, it is an indicator of respect. Rape jokes are never funny. Catcalling someone is not a compliment. More specifically, when we have surveys that show that 28% of men around the world think that sexual jokes at work are acceptable, we should speak out against that and categorically say that that is unacceptable. 

Know what the different types of sexual violence are

To recognize sexual violence and prevent it, we must first identify the different forms it takes.

Sexual violence: The all-encompassing term that covers crimes like sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse.

Sexual harassment: Any unwanted or uninvited sexual attention that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment in the school or workplace. Also includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment. Can also occur in the streets and public places when men ogle, whistle, or make obscene or degrading remarks and gestures. Also includes using technology to engage in harassing, unsolicited, or non-consensual sexual interactions. Keep those unsolicited dick pics to yourself.

Sexual assault: Any form of non-consensual sexual contact that does not result in or include penetration. Examples include attempted rape as well as unwanted kissing, fondling, or touching of genitalia and buttocks. 

Rape: Non-consensual penetration (however slight) of the vagina, anus, or mouth by a penis or other body part. Also includes penetration of the vagina or anus with an object. Rape includes marital rape and anal rape/sodomy.

Domestic violence or intimate partner violence: Violence that takes place between intimate partners which includes spouses, cohabiting partners, or boyfriends/girlfriends. Domestic violence is often used interchangably with intimate partner violence but can also include violence by family members other than a spouse.

Recognize what consent is 

There are 3 mandatory elements of consent. First, it is informed – each person knows and understands what they are getting into and agrees to it. Second, it is voluntary – it must be given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation. We also need to understand how power dynamics like age, social class, and hierarchy can be turned into a form of intimidation. Lastly, it is revocable at any time – just because she agrees to kiss you, it doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with you. 

We should all take all acts of sexual violence seriously. One in 4 women and one in 7 men will be victims of sexual violence in their lifetime. When we make concrete steps to end sexual violence, we help protect everyone. And dear PNP, that concrete step can start with making more accurate sexual violence prevention ads that talk to men.

Happy International Women’s Month! 

For additional tips on how to prevent sexual violence, check out this toolkit made by the Center for Disease Control. – Rappler.com 

Ana P. Santos writes about sexuality and gender for Rappler. She is the 2014 Pulitzer Center Miel Fellow and a 2018 Senior Atlantic Fellow for Healthy Equity in Southeast Asia. Follow her on Facebook at SexandSensibilities.com.

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