Sexual assault prevention tips guaranteed to work!

by Jess McCabe // 22 September 2009, 10:39

I've seen this list posted in several places in the last few days, so I'm not sure who originally wrote it. But I do think it nicely reverses the way these email circulars usually pull out a long list of 'advice' for women to circumscribe our own behaviour in order to avoid being attacked. Ampersand also posted a link to this post at abyss2hope, particularly aimed at students going off to university for the first time this autumn.

Please distribute this list. Put it up in your place of work, in your university’s library or wherever you think theymight be read:

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.

Photo by sijeka*, shared on Flickr using a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Amy // Posted 22 September 2009 at 13:12

Haha brilliant, but naw we couldn't have common sense in this world!

Kristel // Posted 22 September 2009 at 13:21

Absolutely BRILLIANT! Puts the onus fairly and squarely where it has always and will always belong - on the perps.

(Jess, Catherine and all F-Word bloggers, I don't want to sound creepy crawly here, but I'd just like to say how glad I am that the F-Word exists and I think it's fantastic that you manage to do all this as well as having full-time jobs, etc. I think sometimes this gets forgotten among all the heated debate! Reading TFW has informed me, changed my thinking and made me think where I wasn't thinking. And I'm sure it will continue to do that.
Please keep up the great work.)

FeminaErecta // Posted 22 September 2009 at 14:32

I've had this forwarded to me about 47 times this week and it still makes me chuckle.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 22 September 2009 at 15:41

This is a great campaign. I just wish I could believe that it would work.

polly // Posted 22 September 2009 at 19:16

Brilliant. We should raise funds to get it written on the side of buses.

Anji // Posted 22 September 2009 at 21:06

For the record, the original post is here. :o)

Anne Onne // Posted 22 September 2009 at 21:16

Excellent list!

On a not-exactly-more-serious-tone-but-you-know-what-I-mean, it really is such a shame that you never really see advice for young men (I'm assuming this was based on the advice for young women) on what exactly constitutes consent, and how to not get into the 'misunderstandings' that constitute rape. I.e. how to value consent, and that the onus should be on being sure the other person is consenting, rather than on being sure they are not.

annthracks // Posted 22 September 2009 at 22:20

no. 10 If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” obviously English isn't your first language :-) should be "by accident" or "accidentally", thank you :)

Cathy A B // Posted 22 September 2009 at 23:51

What a brillient idea Polly,they did a similar thing with the athiest campaign and that got a lot of attention.I'd certainly contribute with time aswell as money although i admit i wouldnt know where to start.

Jess McCabe // Posted 23 September 2009 at 09:22

@annthracks Clearly that's meant to be an intentional, snarky reversal of "on purpose".

Josie // Posted 23 September 2009 at 10:08

Count me in for donating money and time to getting this publicised. It's about time!

anne botte // Posted 06 October 2009 at 14:25

I wish it were as easy as distributing a list for rapists (or I guess potential rapists) to read! It sucks that we women have to bear the burden both of preventing rape and of the social stigma of rape.
Unfortunately its still a good idea for women to be cautious and keep themselves safe.


Alyks // Posted 07 October 2009 at 08:31

Although I support the concept that men should be taught about sexual assault and that the victim should not be blamed, I feel that this list misses the point of how most sexual assaults happen. Most rape victims(me being one of them) are raped by someone they knew and trusted. Most rapes do not occur by strangers climbing in windows. Also, the list has a sort of joking tone, which is insensitive to those who have been raped.

Anna // Posted 07 October 2009 at 11:16

@Alyks:
I dunno. I think the last few points in it sum up acquaintance rapes quite well..

Alyks // Posted 07 October 2009 at 19:40

@ Anna:
Mmm, maybe, but still I do not find this list effective. This is a serious issue and if we are going to try to teach men to take it seriously, we cannot joke about it. I think that what needs to be focused on here is teaching men to RESPECT women. Like I said, I support the incentive of this list, but I think that it was done all wrong and maybe should be given more thought.

Alyks // Posted 07 October 2009 at 19:49

OK, I just looked at the original post or this list and the most important part was left out!!!(why???) This part makes this list work. It goes at the bottom of the list:

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

janet // Posted 08 October 2009 at 00:58

Would someone design a poster, s.v.p.
I'd like to see this plastered about.

SayBlade // Posted 08 October 2009 at 16:20

With a little tweaking to remove any traces of a snarky tone and adding two more steps one could actually use these as a 12-step foundation for a support group for those who would be tempted to rape someone.

11. Remember that you are a human being who has needs for self esteem which can be reinforced through self-control and respect for others. Others will return the respect through their trust in you.

12. When you get stressed or feel overwhelmed, look for places where there are supportive people and supportive situations. Remember that you only take one day at a time and take it easy on yourself.

La Gitane Fille // Posted 10 October 2009 at 14:32

Reading this, my eyes welled up with tears; it really hit home. To say that this list is fantastic is a genuine understatement.

Georgie // Posted 10 October 2009 at 17:02

@ Alyks - The jokey tone of the list belies the thought and seriousness behind it, but the list is supposed to work on several levels. Humour is one of the best ways of communicating hard-to-swallow ideas, and I honestly think that the best way to reach men, especially in the context of changing their attitude towards women and modifying their own behaviour, is through a little light comedy.

Carolyn // Posted 16 October 2009 at 20:14


When trying to deal with a series of assaults on women, one Israeli politician suggested to Prime Minister Golda Meir that women should not be allowed on the streets after dark. Golda Meir's response: "Men are attacking the women, not the other way around. If there is going to be a curfew, let the men be locked up, not the women."

polly // Posted 17 October 2009 at 08:59

Janet - why not print the text on some sticky A4 labels (available from all good stationers) and stick it up yourself - it's good fun.....

Ruben // Posted 17 October 2009 at 11:55

"I think that what needs to be focused on here is teaching men to RESPECT women"

Agreed! being a young man myself i have come to really appreciate respecting women. After all, i was given birth and raised by one.

Here's a cool quote. It might not be exact as im reciting it off my head, but it comes from the Malcolm X movie (with Denzel Washington)

"The beginning of a new nation must begin with the woman, for she is the first teacher to the child. What the mother will teach to her children, those children qill teach to the world."

The power is in your hands ladies.

Rani // Posted 20 October 2009 at 15:23

Brilliant! I had to create a new page on my website for worthy links, and this is the only worthy so far!

Kristel // Posted 20 October 2009 at 17:01

Rani, if you respected women you wouldn't expect them to bear the sole responsibility for teaching children and thereby "beginning a new nation".

Women have got more than enough responsibility. What they need are more rights.

earwicga // Posted 01 December 2009 at 17:26

Brilliant - I missed this when it was originally posted and am gonna nick it for my blog :)

Hannah // Posted 03 December 2009 at 12:57

I really don't like this list and I'm shocked by the naivete of all the commentators who seem to think it's at all helpful to our cause. It looks to me like just another one of those fake feminist attempts to engage men that ends up alienating potential male sympathisers. Most men would find this list unbelievably patronising. I mean, "5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!" What on earth is saying this going to achieve, especially the caps? It's the perfect embodiment of the nagging, carping feminist - so why are we so keen to paint ourselves into a stereotype and cripple our cause? That said, I do think that addressing men can be incredibly useful if done in the right way and some of these could be modified so they didn't offend everyone who believes men have brains. This one "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." altered to something like 'walk home with a female friend or housemate so women walking alone don't see you as a threat' could be useful.

Jess McCabe // Posted 03 December 2009 at 13:03

@Hannah I think it's pretty clear from the tone and style of the list it's more a sarcastic commentary than something that's meant to reach out to 'male sympathisers'. It's OK to get pissed off and sarcastic sometimes.

gadgetgal // Posted 03 December 2009 at 13:27

@Jess - very true about getting pissed off sometimes, but I think Hannah's right that sometimes it can be alienating to men we want to convince to come round to the cause. I didn't realise how much it could until the other day, when I made an off-the-cuff comment to my husband about the low rape conviction rates, and how it might just be better to use a "guilty until proven innocent" approach - wow, did he take THAT one the wrong way! And he brought up the usual "what about the men who are falsely accused?" which pissed me off no end!!

But after thinking about it I realised how ingrained it had been for him to sympathise with the falsely accused (understandable, because he's male and not a rapist), and how sometimes when we say "rapist" they hear the word "men" instead. Not really our problem, but nevertheless a problem that needs to be solved, and unfortunately it looks like it falls to us yet again!

I only mention all this because I saw this list in a link that someone had put in a posting on a blog and it offended most of the men on it instead of convincing them to rethink, and even some of the more sympathetic men got a little angry because they thought they were being accused of something they hadn't done. So although the list is well done and was good for me to read I think I would need to be careful where I use it - I don't want to alienate people, I want to win them over!

Of course, I think the list's fine here and on other feminist or comedy websites because it does make a good point and it IS quite funny :)

Hannah // Posted 03 December 2009 at 13:41

I see what you mean, it is important for us to be able to get angry about things. Still, I'm wary of arguments that rely on the intentions of the writer, when those are unavailable when writing is interpreted. I had a bit of a debate about an article in my student newspaper lately which I saw as constructing a really unhelpful 'i kissed a girl' image of lesbianism, that the author thought was a joke. In a similar way to this, everything people read will contribute to their general impression of feminism. I'm not saying we should constantly be on our tiptoes and moderate all our conversation, more that I was worried people were so enthusiastic to get this 'out there' as a feminist message in universities. One commenter even mentioned something like the atheist bus campaign, but in those kinds of contexts, the writer, or a handy feminist, isn't going to be around to point out that it's a joke rather than proof of the stereotype they have of feminism.

sianmarie // Posted 03 December 2009 at 14:34

agree with jess
this list parodies really well the kind of listed advice given to women (my fave - "if someone approaches you, pretend to be sick or pretend you're crazy - this will put people off")
why shouldn't we be sarcastic and funny sometimes to point out how patronised and victim blaming conversation aruond rape can be?

Troon // Posted 03 December 2009 at 15:27

When I first saw this list at the start of the univeristy term I was quite keen to post it on the door of my office in the univeristy because its tone struck me as just about right by my reading of the vast majority of both my male and female students: funny and OTT (esp. point 5) enough to be clearly parody, yet odd enough to make people stop and think. That I didn't wasn't because it didn't reach out to 'men', but because I long ago realised my relationshiop with students, which is after all key to my job, is never improved my lecturing them about my politics.

I'd agree with the posters above that this is neither practical advice nor likely to change the behaviour sof many who will assualt women, but it has the advantage of being memorable and funny enough to serve very nicely as a means of altering the ways both men and women view the actions of those men who committ assault. And, ultimately, especially in a closeted and claustrophic environment such as a campus, that may be more important to change overall.
Perhaps I will break my rule and put it on the door after all...

earwicga // Posted 03 December 2009 at 16:42

@ Hannah - it really isn't a joke, it's a parody. And I don't think it's written for men either. Furthermore I don't care if they get upset reading it.

@gadgetgirl
"sometimes when we say "rapist" they hear the word "men" instead"

Incredibly important and also incredibly usefull. Thanks for posting that.

Courtney // Posted 10 February 2010 at 18:07

Finally, a list of male behaviors that need to be adjusted. Prevention!! thank you

JK // Posted 30 June 2010 at 20:38

I don't care if it pisses men off or alienates them. It makes me, a rape victim, feel better. It reminds me that no, it's not my fault that I couldn't 'see it coming'. These two are especially wonderful:

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!

Far too often those lists posted on campuses are ignored by women who haven't been raped and only serve to make women who have been raped feel like they could have and should have done something to prevent it. This list made me laugh and it reinforced that it is NOT. MY. FAULT. Did it piss off some men? Hmm...I can't seem to give a damn.

Marie // Posted 09 September 2010 at 16:09

Pablo Picasso said that art is not truth, art is a lie that makes us realize the truth. I have come to believe this on many levels over the years. I just want to say that parodies of this type make me very happy....like good art, it will make some people angry, but I think the more important thing is that this conversation has been enabled. It is difficult to fight against something--an attitude--that permeates our culture when many of us have been almost unspeakably hurt by it. I laughed when I read this, and thank you for that. I need to laugh. And of course, as I was laughing I was reminded of the wonderful males in the world who do not require such instructions, and of course those that do.

Have Your say

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word Feeds
  • #
  • #