For the past couple of years, I've posted a diary about sexual assault awareness -- mostly to point out that we are none very realistic about what makes us safer than not, and we often have a false sense of security. This year, the stakes are higher.
Our culture is largely silent about sexual assault, and we're headed toward even more silence given the socially "conservative" renaissance taking place in our country. Society punishes sexual assault victims both directly and unconsciously -- we have legislators seeking to redefine sexual assault as a non-crime unless the victim can show evidence of force. Rape is a victimless crime to these lawmakers, as they refer to the wounded party and an accuser -- not as someone who has suffered at the hands of a felon.
The relentless war that social conservatives wage on women's healthcare is also waging a war on sexual abuse victims. Narrowing the definition of rape empowers sexual predators -- and given that attack rape is not the most prevalent form of criminal sexual abuse, it disenfranchizes the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from these crimes.
I was gathering information for a flyer on personal safety. I wanted to include information about the personal safety courses offered in the area, so I called my local police station. A woman answered, and told me that she'd gone through their safety classes herself. She then went on to say that it was the police department's view that a woman should never be in a place where she could be raped.
After a series of phone calls to the mayor's office, I finally heard from the officer who designed and held the training. He hadn't considered the ambiguity in how he expressed his position on preventing these crimes. He meant that sexual assault could be prevented by awareness. I told him that I wouldn't want to be a victim on his department's doorstep.
Whether the mistep was a Freudian slip or and unconconscious mistake, the anecdote is far too familiar. Victims shoulder the blame for sex crimes far too often -- and they are forced into silence as a result. The war on women translates into a war on all victims of sex crimes, whether they are men or women.
In the spirit of personal safety, here are some self-awareness ideas to consider about attack rape, from a diary I posted last year:
...people often underestimate (or wrongly estimate) the effectiveness of one technique or other when they try to prevent crime. Some people are outright delusional about becoming a victim of violence.Be safe and well -- and please take some time to question the beliefs you hold about personal safety.
So, you're going to go for his balls, eh? You've been told to go for his eyes, his throat, or his balls, anyway. Think of the possible consequences of doing this. In scenarios depicted at short prevention seminars, these techniques get promoted as the gold standard in self-defense. The problem is that the only scenario that people want to talk about is the one where the perp is disabled by one swift kick to the nuts. What if you go for the jewels and your attacker doesn't go down? What will you do with him then? An attack rapist has heard about these techniques before -- he won't be surprised when you use them, and he probably knows a number of counter measures. There is a significant chance that you'll make your predicament worse if you try this with little thought or practice.
Do not allow yourself a false sense of security because you know where his eyes, throat, and balls are. He knows where they are, too. And your first shot to the nuts probably won't have him rolling on the ground in agony -- especially if he has much experience raping people. Don't waste a move like that, because you might only get one chance; be sure that you can take him down before you try that maneuver. It wouldn't hurt to have an idea about what you will do next, as well.
Planning for self-defense. Have you ever hit another person? I don't mean when you're stepping through a technique with your neighbor in a one time self-defense class. If you haven't, know that it isn't so easy as you might think. It can hurt to punch or kick someone. A lot. People sometimes put themselves out of commission by trying to land a blow. Be sure that you are strong and supple enough to do the job without hurting yourself. And make sure that you have some practice actually hitting things. Recoil can be surprising -- and that is even more true when you strike with a makeshift weapon like a baseball bat.
Aiming for the chosen target isn't so straighforward, either.
Please: if your sense of security relies on a plan to use self-defense, make sure that you've practiced that plan. Find a dojo that pays enormous and highly trained men to practice with you. Or go to a YMCA class where these same men often volunteer. Make sure you really know what it's like to use the self-defense methods that you depend on to save you.
If you're small, there is a danger that a perp can pick you up. If both of your feet are off the ground, you are in trouble. Find someone who can pick you up repeatedly until you learn to keep him from doing so. Also have him teach you how to find your way down once a perp has picked you up. It isn't all punching and kicking.
Think through that plan. Sometimes the thing that makes us feel safe is absolutely no help at all. A case in point is to the left.
The device in the photo is called Rapex. It is a vaginal latex condom with barbs inside, invented by a woman in South Africa who wanted to caplitalize on the local rape epidemic. This device often gets praised on the internet as a key to security and freedom from sexual oppression for women. People sometimes use too little imagination.
There is exactly one way this device will work successfully, and an unlimited number of ways that it will get its owner killed. It assumes that one man attacks, and goes straight to business with an erect penis.
This thing doesn't work at all if there is more than one attacker. Or maybe there is only one perpetrator, but the first penetration is with something other than a penis. In fact, the likelihood that the first penetration will be a hand or foreign object is pretty high. What happens when the perpetrator discovers this device after it's failed to do its job? Or worse, it does its job on one of a group of assailants? And why are we even discussing a rape prevention device that requires a rape to occur before it will deploy?
And while we're at it, please do not try to escape a parking lot attack by punching a perp with your car keys sticking out between your fingers. There is a good chance that you'll sever half of the tendons in the palm of your hand, and you'll probably only manage to piss him off.
What you wear sometimes does matter, although not in the way some folks want to think. You're probably okay with a group of people, but if you're going to be out by yourself, you might think about how your clothing will impact your ability to defend yourself. Can you run in those shoes? Can you punch or kick in that nice suit or dress? Can anything you're wearing be used as a weapon against you? Scarves and pony tails are sometimes a liability. If a perp gets hold of you by a scarf, or he grabs you at the back of the head by the pony tail, you are probably in some trouble.
Are you thinking about a firearm for self defense? Let's not digress into a discussion about the pros and cons of choosing a firearm for self defense. There is only one thing I want to get across: it is a mistake to choose a firearm for self-defense if you do not intend to kill your target. If you cannot bring yourself to kill a perpetrator, there is a significant chance that you will lose control of your firearm. Then you are really in trouble.