Some thoughts on ending rape

Recently, I started noticing references in my Twitter feed to a Twitter account called @EndingRape. The account belongs to a man named Richard Hart, who has a Web site and book called Keep Your Daughter Safe.

Now, I don’t think Richard Hart is a bad guy. I don’t think he’s evil or malicious. I think he probably sincerely believes that rape is a Bad Thing and he probably genuinely wants a world with less of it.

But his approach is deeply troubling, and in some cases even destructive, for a number of reasons.

The most obvious problem with Mr. Hart’s approach is that it focuses on women, and on listing things that women shouldn’t do if they don’t want to get raped. His Twitter feed is a litany of thou-shalt-nots for women:

The problem with these “tips” is that they shift the responsibility of preventing rape onto the potential victim. This opens the door to all sorts of victim-blaming behavior (“You walked down the street alone and you were raped? Well, what did you expect would happen?). By placing the burden of responsibility on a victim to avoid a crime rather than on a perpetrator to not commit a crime, we end up, whether we want to or not, creating two classes of victims: those who did what they were supposed to do (and if they get raped anyway, it’s not their fault, they followed the script) and those who didn’t do what they were supposed to do (and therefore bear some of the blame for what happened).

Mr. Hart says in his Twitter feed that rape is the responsibility of the rapist, not the victim; he claims that he isn’t engaging in victim blaming behavior:

But this brings up a troubling aspect to telling women it’s their responsibility to avoid rape: If we accept the notion that women should do these things in order to avoid being victims, what we’re really saying is “women, make sure some OTHER woman is assaulted.” Essentially, we’re saying that rape is inevitable, rapists target the low-hanging fruit, so women should avoid being that low-hanging fruit and let someone else be targeted.

In his Twitter profile, Mr. Hart says he is “committed to ending rape and sexual assault in America.” This is not possible if we address only what women do. His tweet saying “there will always be rapists” belies his claim that he wants to end rape and sexual assault.

The title of his book is especially telling. It’s called Keep Your Daughter Safe, and it suggests to me that his goal isn’t actually to end rape in America; it’s to make sure that his family members–people he cares about–aren’t victims of rape.

This is, fundamentally, a monkeysphere issue. He doesn’t actually want to end rape; he wants to end rape for people inside his monkeysphere–people he has an emotional investment in. It’s okay if his advice means that some other woman is targeted; there will always be bad people, after all, so the way to end rape among women he cares about is to give them an easier target to go after.

If we are actually to be sincere in our desires to end rape in America, at some point we must step outside of our own personal monkeyspheres. We must address that the end of rape will never come by telling women what to do; it can only come–it must only come–by addressing the causes of rape. Violence, anger, misogyny, rape culture, a perception of entitlement to sexual access to women’s bodies–these are the things we have to talk about if we are seriously to make progress on ending rape.

But these things are hard. Harder than telling women to keep the door locked and don’t walk alone. And they won’t fit in 140 characters.

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12 Responses to Some thoughts on ending rape

  1. Jen says:

    “If we accept the notion that women should do these things in order to avoid being victims, what we’re really saying is ‘women, make sure some OTHER woman is assaulted.'”

    I think this spells it out most clearly in a way that people might actually understand. Thank you.

  2. YES. All of this. Thank you for stating it so clearly. I didn’t know this guy existed, but the way he’s approaching rape only perpetuates rape culture. :/

  3. JohnnyBee says:

    So, promoting situational awareness while ALSO not victim blaming is a bad thing ?

    I agree that victim blaming is shameful, that it compounds the offence perpetrated, and that it needs to stop.

    I agree that a society that points the finger at the victim instead of the offender needs to think about its thinking.

    I agree that we need a whole lot more empathy generally, whether it be politicians who are trying to force their agenda on to women’s reproductive rights, someone bombing a sporting event, or stealing your parking spot.

    The fact remains, however that there will always be someone who is willing to use whatever means necessary to reach their goal and thought policing won’t make that go away. Yes, it sucks we need to be aware of our surroundings, that a backpack left at a sporting event should be reported promptly, and that flashing an expensive watch in a bad neighborhood is bad judgement, but it’s still a fact.

    I believe that’s the point Mr. Hart was trying to make.

  4. Thanks, I think this does a great job at identifying the victim blaming @EndingRape. That’s great, and thank you.

    But there’s more to say, I think.

    First, even if we could ignore that victim blaming (and we shouldn’t, and can’t), a lot of the advice listed here is evidence-free bullshit. Mailboxes names? Really? I’d question to what extent the fellow involved has put in any effort whatsoever to understand what’s actually known about rape. (Names as a signficant part of victim selection? Show me the data.)

    Which leads me to a second point, which is that that feed, at least as far as I’ve seen, is entirely focused on stranger rape. Yet most reported rapes, (at least in the US, Europe, etc.) and likely most rapes are acquaintance rapes. (I can dig up citations for this if you like, but it’s covered in sources more scholarly than a twitter feed or this blog comment, e.g., http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00289907 )

    These seemingly lesser complaints resonate with the victim blaming you’ve identified. Victim blaming teaches fear, it is disempowering, It reinforces a sense of helplessness. The data from victim selection research, to my eyes, strongly suggests that a net consequence of raising a lot of ineffective fear is the reinforcement the “powerless” gender role for women, creating fears and expressions of those fears in language and body language that may actually increase rather that decrease both stranger and acquaintance rape.

    Let me not mince words. @EndingRape may be increasing rape.

    (I would quibble with a completely zero-sum view of rape. Rape is often opportunistic, particularly so with acquaintance rape. A method that would effectively help one woman avoid rape wouldn’t necessarily lead to another being raped. But the key word here is “effective”, and we seem to be strongly in agreement that @EndingRape is not, and I argue in fact that it’s actively counterproductive.)

    • Redgirl says:

      Good point about stranger rape vs. acquaintance rape. This is the same problem I’ve had with the “stranger danger” campaigns they had in my son’s grade school. Teaching kids to fear strangers is stupid. Most child abuse/molestation happens within the family or among known people.

  5. Dirtclustit says:

    Good God, did I seriously just read what I thought I did?

    Evidently so, and whatever your reasoning for writing it, it seems apparent you aren’t willing to state it rather than the obscure “references to my twitter feed” So I assume he didn’t appreciate your attitude when writing about acting out “rape” scenes, but rather than explaining how people should be free to do what they desire and explicitly consent to behind closed doors, you choose to taunt people who misunderstand many aspects of the BDSM scene.

    But this article goes way beyond your inability to understand science and ignorantly write about it, as here you intentionally take an author’s words to have meaning that isn’t there. So what if his website’s name implies something that may never be attained, just because he offers tips about how to avoid situations that a perp may be lurking in wait in order to commit quite possibly the most heinous crime does NOT mean he is shifting responsibility onto the victim. You should take your own advice and read the words that he wrote instead of what you want the words to say. I am not even going to go through the trouble of picking every aspect apart, unless of course you would like to?

    And Joe Deck, yes you are correct in saying that many rapes are committed by people who are not strangers, which is exactly why one of his tips is changing the locks even when the key is returned, because men are sick little pathetic excuses for human being. There are also the sick individuals that hack a woman’s computer, or have interacted online, or have seen them at work and know their first name, but not the last. In any event, should the perp ever follow them home or to their apartment building, not having their first name announcing what door is adding another hurdle for the rapist to jump over which may help prevent the crime.

    And even if none of his suggestions do anything to statistically prevent rape, so what, the damage goes far beyond the occurrence of the incident and carries lasting psychological effects that cause a woman to not feel safe even in her own home. If it provides comfort, it may help, so asking for the data could easily be taken as a very chauvinistic thing to say, but still nowhere near as chauvinistic or ignorant as ol’ Frankie was the day he wrote this masterpiece of written word.

    your pal,

    Dirtclustit

  6. Noadi says:

    @Dirtclustit Okay first of all “men are sick little pathetic excuses for human being” is a horrible thing to say. Most men don’t rape, implying that all men are little more than rutting animals is a pretty appalling thing to say.

    Second, what @EndingRape is doing isn’t empowering or making women feel safer. It’s the exact opposite, it’s telling women they should feel constantly worried about being attacked and to not feel safe even in their own homes. Please tell me exactly how that is a healthy way to live your life?

    I refuse to live my life in constant fear and paranoia because to do so would also be psychologically damaging. There is a difference between situational awareness (which everyone, regardless of gender should practice) and what @EndingRape is telling women. Besides if I actually followed all the “advice” I wouldn’t have much of a life left, can’t talk to anyone, can’t trust anyone, can’t leave the house safely, can’t work safely, can’t answer the door to anyone, etc. And that’s leaving out the “advice” that could actually put you in danger, like hiding in the bushes if your car breaks down instead of more sensibly staying in your car with the doors locked (not so much because you could be attacked as that you aren’t clearly visible near traffic and being hit by a car is generally unhealthy).

  7. Dirtclustit says:

    It is horrible, and I wish it wasn’t it wasn’t an accurate description of men who have raped, I wish it weren’t also true of many men who haven’t raped anyone, but unfortunately there are also the sick pathetic waste of space who attempt to control others without their consent by psychological ways of intimidation or hacking into their private electronic space, slut shaming or any sexual humiliation that is not desired.

    It’s not all men, but unfortunately there are many whose attitudes are part of the problem and not the solution. Franklin never says what the author did to piss him off, but if you go to Amazon to check out the book, you’ll find many reviews from Frank et al and I really don’t get how someone could take his tips so out of context.

    I don’t believe Franklin even read his book, and I know he isn’t seriously so ignorant as to walk away with the messages stated in this post from reading a few tweets. He didn’t try to hear what the author was trying to communicate, he twisted the meaning as far and as maliciously as he could. The author isn’t telling women

    “feel constantly worried about being attacked and to not feel safe even in their own homes.”

    and he book isn’t telling women anything that Franklin twists it into. He took the time to write out all the scenarios where rapists have taking advantage of the situation and assaulted women. He spent seven years as a cop in the Bay Area, through his job experience he has been called to the scene of many of the assaults that people never hear of unless they’ve been the victim.

    Most people only hear of the circumstances that woman are brave enough to call the assault what it is, rape, there are countless assaults that we never here of, like when the male gets away. Knowledge is power, ignorance isn’t even bliss, it’s just ignorance, he wrote the guide so that people could be aware, ignoring the statistics and taking Franklin’s point of view contributes the problem. Do you know that one in four college women are assaulted in the area where he was a cop?

    yes, not all were rapes, but one in four assaulted during the times they spent as an undergraduate in college, and who knows how many went unreported or how many of those one and four were only an assault because the woman got away.

    What upsets me more is that people will automatically back up and echo such ignorant mind frames as what Franklin wrote hear. To be honest, I believe this post was written more to slander the author than it was to prevent assaults on females. In his attempt to be a poly and BDSM guru he has gotten way out of line trying distinguish himself from others, he’s just trash talking and it gets old.

    How many rapes and assaults does Franklin honestly believe will be prevented by “teaching” pathetic men how to get consent?

    The numbers of assaults isn’t declining fast enough (and that’s even if numbers are declining) I don’t really know and this isn’t just a debate for me so I don’t care about finding statistics to prove a point here, any amount is too many. And because there is a significant number of men who are pathetic low lives, and and even larger number of arrogantly proclaim their ignorance as the author did here, people need to be empowered with information.

    Franklin not only believes that if we could just teach males how get consent that is the best way to go about it, as if all those incidents wouldn’t have happened because the pathetic males go “Gee! I didn’t know any better, but now that you mention it, I guess that was a rapey wasn’t it, thank you for showing me the light, now I know, and knowledge is power!”

    Anybody who tries to tell me that men didn’t realize what they were doing wasn’t right, is… lets not mince words…. a liar. Being drunk and horny doesn’t equate to not knowing any better.

    I don’t believe Franks sincerity in this post and frankly in many of posts, he uses subtle “tacit” cowardly ways to slight people, I know because he’s done it to me, but I won’t put up with him doing to it to others. I don’t care about the internet backlash, I go through that crap anyway.

    His attitude, the same attitude that many others echo just because tacit did, is part is the problem. I don’t appreciate people who are part of the problem just to make point, just to belittle an author.

    I would have respect for him is he was direct, I don’t respect subtlety, and when it comes to issues of power and control over others, I am very unforgiving of ignorance. I witnessed the damage that has been done to victims of these crimes. I would appreciate it is his typically smug attitude was with any topic other than rape.

    It’s nothing personal with you Noadi, I appreciate your tone a hell of a lot more than the previous comments, but it’s posts like this are why I have no respect for Franklin, and I buy into the tired old “I am just expressing my view and opinion” because that is not what he did. Your reply was much closer to that though, and I appreciate it.

    • “Franklin never says what the author did to piss him off, but if you go to Amazon to check out the book, you’ll find many reviews from Frank et al…”

      For the record, none of the reviews posted on Amazon are from me. My Amazon name is “franklinveaux.” Nor has the author done anything to slight me; my first exposure to him was his Twitter feed.

      “I don’t believe Franks sincerity in this post and frankly in many of posts, he uses subtle “tacit” cowardly ways to slight people, I know because he’s done it to me, …”

      Huh? Do I even know you?

  8. Dusty says:

    Ok, sorry bout that Franklin, I didn’t realize you only jumped on the band wagon rather than started the slander or came up with such a hostile way to take the meaning in his tips.

    And if you honestly believe in the assertions stated in this post in regards to Mr. Hart’s book, web sites, and tweets it is very clear to me it comes from either out right ignorance and if not then it is a retaliation from something he did (But according to you, that is simply not true, so to me it just means your post is mindless, like a sheep who follows whoever it was that began this nonsense)

    You are welcome to deny it, I would say your problem is with honesty, the same thing I would say if you tried to tell me you have no idea who I am . But no, you do not know me.

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