"Sexual assault prevention tips guaranteed to work"

A modest proposal for avoiding rape

Published September 23, 2009 6:01PM (EDT)

School's in, the party's on -- and the grownups are "freaking out," writes Jaclyn Friedman at The American Prospect. "At about this time every year, adult anxiety about sexual assault reaches a tipping point and gives way to an avalanche of advice to young women from campuses, commentators, and parents alike: Don't hook up! Don't dress provocatively! Watch your drink! Actually, don't drink at all! Always stay with a friend! Don't stay out too late! Don't walk home alone! Etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam."

Common sense and gut-trusting, with a soupcon of vigilance: never a bad idea. But as far as reliable rape prevention goes, Friedman notes, they're about as strong a self-defense as a pamphlet. Sexual assault rates may indeed even be going up, and that's in part because one very important person is often left out of the prevention equation: the perp. Yes, there can be gray areas; confusion and complications, of course. But there is a bottom line: "Only rapists can prevent rape." In the prevention and counseling community, that's practically a chestnut -- but to the rest of us, it presents a serious and overdue challenge: to shift the way we talk about rape and where we place ultimate responsibility for public health and safety.

One bit of pointed not-really-satire currently making the rounds (but not always sourced) could also give us a start. (Caveat: The "ALWAYS REMEMBER" coda is pushing it, I think. But the rest is the stuff of instant, if provocative, classic.)

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

And, ALWAYS REMEMBER: if you didn’t ask permission and then respect the answer the first time, you are commiting a crime--no matter how “into it” others appear to be.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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