Rape Prevention Program

I saw this flier on campus today and I took it with me.  The more I looked at it, the more I realized that this company is coming from a good place and probably didn’t realize the ways they were rubbing a portion of the population the wrong way.

I sent them the following email.

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m a university student pursuing a degree in Community Health with a minor in Human Sexuality.  I saw (the above flier) at the bus stop Monday evening.  I have several problems with this flier.

The first problem is that it’s titled “rape prevention program.”  The only way to prevent rape is to prevent rapists from raping people.  Victims of rape can’t prevent rape in themselves.  It’s rather backwards to put the responsibility of preventing rape on the shoulders of those who are raped.  If it were called a self defense program, as opposed to rape prevention, you’d probably get a more diverse group of participants.

My second, even bigger, problem is the bullet points.  The first bullet point says “don’t be a victim.”  That implies that people who are raped have a choice in becoming a rape victim, when in fact that they don’t.  That choice is made for them, by the rapist.  While you probably didn’t mean to come across as victim blaming, you did.

The third bullet point, “control fear through training” also made me pause.  Fear isn’t inherently bad.  Fear gives you an edge.  It pushes adrenaline through your body, enables you to remember more fine details, and fight back harder.  Fear is useful.  I have a hunch that you really meant panic in place of the word fear.  Panic is decidedly not useful, but fear is.

The background you chose for your advertisement plays on every womans worst fears: the masked attacker jumping out from behind the bushes.  These kind of rapes occur in less than 10% of rapes, the other 90% of rapes are acquaintance rapes.  While a self defense class like the one you’re advertising might be useful in a rape like the first example, it’s likely to be far less useful in an acquaintance rape.

I know what you were trying to do.  You were probably trying to scare women into taking your self defense class.  Your flier relies on stereotypes  and peoples fear to be effective and is only effective because of those fears and stereotypes.  I’d suggest that you find a way to sell your class without relying on these stereotypes and fears.

Thank you for your time

I know it probably won’t change anything, and that’s ok, because I’ve told them my opinion of their advertising techniques and given them a place to start if they wanted to tweak it. I’ve done what I felt I needed to in any case.


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