By Marissa Peck
The real problem is that society ignores the fact that the rapists, not men and women who are raped, are to blame. The posters around campus are pointing out the fact that as a society we are not holding the right people responsible for sexual assault.
Preventing sexual assault should not be the responsibility of one gender, but rather be put equally on both genders. Unfortunately, the majority of the responsibility has been put on the women. The poster campaign, including the “Helpful Tips for Men” posters, is working to point out this lack of equal representation.
As a female college student I have been told not to walk home alone at night, not to flirt with men, not to wear revealing clothing, not to flaunt my sexuality—meanwhile men are able to do all these things without risk. Can you imagine what a night out at Union would be like if all female students protected themselves against sexual assault, following all of this advice that has been given to them? Women in long skirts or pants, turtle neck sweaters, no make-up and messy hair. It is an hilarious image and clearly impractical.
What if I manage to avoid doing all of these things and am still assaulted? What have I done to ask to be assaulted? Nothing, no one—male nor female—asks to be raped.
In the academic year of 2011-2012, four of my closest friends have been sexually assaulted—three have been raped. All four of these assaults were by males. These assaults were not because of mixed signals or intoxication. All four women said “no” in a number of ways (body language and verbally) and the men who were assaulting them did not listen. These women were following the advice of the Sexual Assault Awareness campaigns that have been presented to them, campaigns geared towards women. Clearly, targeting women for sexual assault prevention campaigns is ineffective.
Has anyone noticed the other posters with statistics and pictures that were geared towards both genders? Apparently Nick D’Angelo has not, because none of these posters were acknowledged in his article even though they comprised over half of the posters put up. Instead, D’Angelo insisted upon defending himself and all of the other men who have fallen victim to these “blatantly and unequivocally sexist” posters.
These posters were not meant to “attack” the male population, but rather to target the population that does the majority of assaulting, which happens to be the male population. One in eight men admit to rape in anonymous surveys and 42 percent of men surveyed said they would commit sexual assault if they thought they could get away with it.
D’Angelo points out that 4 percent of male college students have reported being sexually assaulted. It fails to mention the gender of the assailants, who very well could be men. With these statistics, targeting men or at least equally targeting men and women for sexual assault prevention is essential to effective change.
The “Helpful Tips for Men” posters are serious and should be taken seriously. They have the potential to foster important, real, constructive and serious conversation. Everyone has the power to choose what they talk about and how they go about doing so.
These posters should not have caused the issue of sexual assault to “not be taken seriously” nor is it a “distraction from the real problem” as D’Angelo seems to think. Rather, D’Angelo and the others he says have talked about the signs with “harsh criticism” are the ones responsible for creating the negative and unproductive dialogue about these posters.
Instead of getting defensive, I encourage everyone to think deeply about the complex issues that these posters intend to illuminate. I encourage everyone to engage in productive, intellectual and constructive conversation about everything they do in their lives, especially about sexual assault and the manner in which our society addresses it.