Posts Tagged ‘rape prevention’

Tuesday’s with Prevention: Bystander Intervention

In Sexual Assault Awareness on April 26, 2011 at 8:10 am

Recently a woman was physically assaulted because she is Transgender. Video of the assault showed up on youtube (of course). An article about the assault can be found at http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-mcdonalds-beating-20110423,0,3336656.story

Sadly, this is unremarkable. Attacks against transgender individuals are common, far more common than we even know because of the barriers they face when it comes to reporting. Viewers of the video note that nobody did much to prevent/stop this assault from occurring. There was an employee who stood in front of the victim. However, he did a very poor job and can be seen allowing the two girls to kick and punch the victim repeatedly. An older woman tried to help but became the target of the girls as a result. You can also hear other employees laughing and the person taking the video, when one of the blow’s to the victims head causes her to suffer a seizure, advises the attackers to leave and that the cops are coming.

There are three types of people involved in an assault.  The first two are obvious, the perpetrator and the victim.  The third is the bystander.  This person(s) plays an important role in the way the perpetrator responds and how he or she treats the victim.  The bystander can either support the perpetrator or the victim.  Unfortunately, sometimes bystanders are afraid and don’t wish to get involved, so they do nothing.  Research shows that an individual is less likely to intervene if there are other bystanders present. In emergency situations, many things prohibit bystanders from intervening:

  • If no one else is acting, it is hard to go against the crowd.
  • People may feel that they are risking embarrassment.
    (What if I’m wrong and they don’t need help?)
  • They may think there is someone else in the group more qualified to help.
  • They may think that the situation does not call for help since no one else is
    doing anything.

Are you a good or poor bystander?  Your actions can make a difference in someone’s life. In some cases, sexual assault can be prevented when people take responsibility for each other and get involved when someone is at risk. When you see someone who looks like they could use assistance do you respond in a helpful or hurtful way? You don’t have to confront the perpetrator if you are concerned that you may be in danger.  You may ask the victim to come and join you and your friends.  You may report the situation to an adult or the police.  Or, if you are willing and able, let the perpetrator know in a non-threatening manner that what is being done is unacceptable and it should stop.  If someone doesn’t recognize trouble, do something to intervene and prevent the situation from becoming worse. We all have a responsibility to look out for each other.

Some Bystander Strategies are*:

“I” statements

  • Three parts: 1. State your feelings, 2. Name the behavior, 3. State how you want the person to respond. This focuses on your feelings rather than criticizing the other person.
  • Example: “I feel           when you               . Please don’t do that anymore.”


  • Reduces the tension of an intervention and makes it easier for the person to hear you.
  • Do not undermine what you say with too much humor. Funny doesn’t mean unimportant.


  • Snaps someone out of their “sexist comfort zone.”
  • Example: Ask a man harassing a woman on the street for directions or the time.
  • Allows a potential target to move away and/or to have other friends intervene.
  • Example: Spill your drink on the person or interrupt and start a conversation with the person.

Group Intervention 

  • There is safety and power in numbers. It is much easier to avoid/ignore one person but difficult when it is several people.
  • Best used with someone who has a clear pattern of inappropriate behavior where many examples can be presented as evidence of his problem.

Bring it Home

  • Prevents someone from distancing himself from the impact of his actions.
  • Example: “I hope no one ever talks about you like that.”
  • Prevents someone from dehumanizing his targets.
  • Example: What if someone said your girlfriend deserved to be raped or called your mother a whore?”

We’re friends, right….?

  • Reframes the intervention as caring and non-critical.
  • Example: “Hey Chad…..as your friend I’ve gotta tell you that getting a girl drunk to have sex with her isn’t cool, and could get you in a lot of trouble. Don’t do it.”

When a situation makes us uncomfortable, we may try and dismiss it as not being a problem; “I’m just overreacting.” When in doubt, trust your gut! You have the responsibility to intervene. When you fail to act, you condone the bad behavior.

Bystander Intervention is a successful strategy because it discourages victim blaming behavior which contributes to the perpetration of violence and the silence of its victims. It also changes social norms, attitudes and behaviors that contribute to the occurrence and acceptance of violence. Interviews with convicted rapists reveal behaviors that began in early childhood that went unquestioned. While it is not accurate to say that bystander intervention would’ve prevented all of the crimes these men committed, it is likely that their behavior would have set off red flags and intervention could have occurred, thus reducing the likelihood of future offenses.

*adapted from Virginia Tech’s ‘Stop Abuse’ page http://www.stopabuse.vt.edu/bystander.php#strategies

Perpetrators in the Movement

In Sexual Assault Awareness on April 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

Recently I attended a Take Back the Night event and march. During the Survivor Speakout, the opportunity for victims and survivors to tel their stories, a perpetrator got on stage and spoke. He began by saying that he wasn’t sure that ‘this was the right place’ for telling his story but that he knew what he did ‘was wrong’ that he ‘pushed too far.’

After his speech, everyone clapped. But the question is, ‘What place do perpetrators have in the movement against sexual and intimate partner violence?’

My view, is ‘some.’ What this guy did was the right thing. He got up in public and he named what he was, what he did, and why it was wrong. He didn’t make excuses. He apologized.

However, is WAS the wrong place. Take Back the Night’s are for survivors. At the very least, he could have spoken with the organization putting the event on beforehand and told that that he was considering speaking. That way special consideration may have been made, or he could have been told that he wasn’t allowed to speak so as not to ruin the experience for survivors.

It is important to recognize that perpetrators do have a story as well. They have a place in our movement. To get to that point, however, serious thought and serious listening and education needs to be accomplished. There are some perpetrators who simply do not have a place in this movement. Serial rapists do not have a place in this movement.

Perpetrators who wish to work in this movement need to be forthcoming and need to be understanding that they may not be welcomed. When this occurs, not ‘if’, they need to be ok with that. They need to not get defensive and reactive. They need to take it maturely. Perpetrators who wish to get involved in ‘the movement’ need to understand that they will never outgrow what they did, and can never apologize enough. Their place is tenuous, it will always be that way. They can be involved as examples of what not to do, how behaviors early on lead to their perpetration.

The right place isn’t at Take Back the Night. The right place is…I don’t know, somewhere safe for victims and survivors.

Tuesday’s Prevention: Yes means YES!!!

In Sexual Assault Awareness on April 5, 2011 at 7:00 am

We’ve talked about consent on this blog before; what it is, what it’s not, how to get, and why it is important; our organization is based on the issue of consent actually.  We have all heard that ‘No means no,’ but many individuals and organizations are beginning to look at consent as ‘yes means yes.’ This change comes as a result of women rethinking and reevaluating sexuality and female empowerment. By focusing a sexuality in a positive light, ‘yes’ is more positive than ‘no,’ it exercises women’s agency to enjoy and explore their sexuality. It also makes consent clear and unambiguous and undeniable.

For the record…“Consent” is a voluntary, ongoing, sober, enthusiastic, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, well-communicated agreement between all parties involved about acts and levels of intimacy.

Whenever anyone asks about consent, the most common response is that it would kill the mood, that it is awkward. Really? We are willing to get completely naked, the most vulnerable state that we can possibly be, but we’re afraid to ask if we can do _________ with them?

What could be more erotic then knowing your partner(s) want to be with you? If someone we like and want to be with says, “I want to do _______ with/to you.” You’re telling me that you are going to say no, “why did you ask?” Being asked is a sign of respect and desire.

What are we afraid they’ll say no? So? Do we seriously want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with us? The consequences of not obtaining consent are severe. It’s called sexual assault/rape. We need to remember that consent is a legal term after-all.

We need to also remember that consent is not just a legal term. Sex is great. Sex should be fun and enjoyable for all parties. Consent isn’t a panacea to great sex. Practice is what creates that. But knowing what your partner wants, and how to get them off, and what you like and what gets you off, makes sex better. Makes you better at it. Consent may surprise you and teach you some things about your own body you never knew. We all like different things, and so what worked with one partner may not work with the next. That’s why it is important to ask (and tell). In consent, we may find the hottest greatest most satisfying sex when could never even imagine in our wildest dreams. It’s certainly worth a shot.

Rachel Kramer Bussel in the article “Beyond Yes or No” states that “The fact is, we’re never going to see anyone sane arguing outright that they’re against consent. To truly reinforce the message that consent is sexy, we need to show our partners why, and how that is” pg48. Busel’s article can be found in ‘Yes Means Yes,’ an anthology of feminist writings related to consent and women’s sexuality and aimed at empowering women (and everyone else too!) to enjoy sex and sexuality.

It is a myth that men are always ready to drop everything if sex is offered. That consent is a basic given when it comes to men’s sexuality is harmful. This lie causes men to feel like they must consent, or face the stigma of being labeled ‘gay’ or ‘less than a real man.’ What this means is that sometimes consent with men isn’t truly present. And that is what folks?


So it is in men’s best interest (aside from the fact that an assault is a possibility) to explicitly give or not give consent, and to their partners to ask. Men are raped too, remember?

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Let’s take the time to ask and listen. The consequences are too serious, and the benefits are astounding and amazing and astonishing and mind-blowing and flabbergasting (…ok so you may not ever actually use that word, but I just wanted to use that word in a blog for once). Consent should be an ecstatic-screaming-wake-up-the-neighbors-down-the-street “YES!!!” This is not only about preventing sexual violence, it’s about communication about intimacy, something we can all use….and of course it’s about pleasure too!

Here is a link to a blog based on the book.

Rape-aXe: The Anti-Rape Condom

In Sexual Assault Awareness on March 22, 2011 at 6:05 am

We are all familiar with chastity belts, we know what they are at least. Chastity belts were originally designed to prevent adultery and masturbation. However, a third reason, the prevention of rape, may have been offered as well. Today there is new device designed to prevent rape. It’s called ‘Rape-aXe.’ Rape-aXe is designed to be worn like the female condom and is allegedly very discreet. When an attacker attempts to insert his penis will be captured by this device via sharp barbs. These barbs will not come out except through surgical methods. This will of course alert medical staff that their patient is a rapist and the police can then be made aware. The device was designed by Sonnet Ehlers, a South African woman who came up with the idea after a victim told her that she wished she ‘had teeth down there.’

This device has been controversial and has received much criticism.

Many say that the device is barbaric (Ehlers response to this is that it is a medieval device ‘for a medieval deed.) Some argue that the device could be used for revenge. The device could be ‘triggered’ prior to penile-vaginal intercourse, via an object. Perhaps the biggest critique, however, is that it could lead to increased violence by perpetrators.

This is device doesn’t prevent rape in any significant way. The risk of increased violence is all too real as well. True prevention seeks to prevent crime before it occurs. If we are to be serious about preventing sexual and intimate partner violence, than we are going to need to take more radical steps. This means challenging our rape culture, something this device cannot do. I would even argue that this device promotes rape culture actually. It is designed for use by women, not men, and thus portrays women as victims and men as perpetrators. We know that men rape women in overwhelming numbers, but men also rape other men and women rape men and other women too. This device isn’t helpful to non-heterosexual rape. We need to change the culture that allows (and encourages) this kind of violence to continue, not create devices designed for the eventuality of violence.

%d bloggers like this: