Sexual Violence – resistance and reality

// 31 May 2007

In 2000 the UN released it’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and promised to achieve them by 2015. Now almost half way through that time there is some reviewing of the movement going on.

“None of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved without gender equality. We cannot let another minute go by without acting decisively and urgently. Unless we do, we will be condemning millions of girls to a life of poverty and hardship.” Gra├ža Machel

From Words of Power

Unfortunately work by Plan UK shows it isn’t good news, the recently issues Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls report provides some global statistics:

  • Girls aged 15-19 account for 50% of victims of sexual assault worldwide
  • Birth complications and unsafe abortions are the leading cause of death for young women aged 15-19
  • Seventy per cent of the 1.5billion people living on less than a dollar a day are female
  • Stunted growth in estimated 450million women as a result of childhood malnutrition
  • Approximately 7.3million young women are living with HIV/AIDS, in comparison to 4.3million men
  • Two thirds of 15-19-year-olds newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are female
  • Sixty two million girls are out of primary school

Meanwhile, as we know, sexual violence isn’t just about developing nations and there has been some promotion of the idea of “Rape Resistance” rather than “Rape Prevention”.

It is more accurate to talk about rape resistance. The term rape “prevention” misleads women.

First, it gives women the false message that there is a way to “prevent” sexual assault from happening. There is no such guarantee. Secondly, traditional “rape prevention” information leads women to believe that they are responsible for preventing sexual assault. Our culture encourages women to be careful about what they wear or what they do in order to stop it from happening. The focus is on women and, as a result, many survivors of sexual assault end up blaming themselves. Offenders, however, are always 100 per cent responsible.

From Hamilton Spectator

The idea of rape resistance is simple – we all have a toolkit (which is referred to as a backpack as tool kit is seemingly too masculine) which contains strategies for resistance which will help keep us safe(r). And unlike rape “prevention” ideas they don’t rely on us staying home after sunset (as if most sexual violence was “stranger danger” which we also know to be untrue). However the image of the backpack also highlights the dual-nature of the safety strategies:

On the one hand, the backpack is necessary. When women sense danger, they have some strategies to choose from. On the other hand, the backpack weighs women down and restricts their freedom. All women, to some degree, carry this burden.

Hamilton Spectator

The same article provides the warning signs to help recognise a potentially abusive dating partner.

  • Using threats: making threats to harm someone; threatening to leave, to commit suicide.
  • Using intimidation: making someone afraid by using looks, actions, gestures; smashing things; abusing pets.
  • Using emotional abuse or anger: putting someone down; name calling; playing mind games.
  • Using isolation or exclusion: controlling what someone does, who they see and talk to, what they read, where they go; using jealousy to justify actions.
  • Minimizing, denying and blaming: making light of the abuse and not taking someone’s concerns about it seriously; saying the abuse didn’t happen; saying the other person caused it.
  • Using peer pressure: threatening to expose someone’s weakness or to spread rumours; telling lies about them to their friends.
  • Using male privilege: treating her like a servant; acting like the “master of the castle”; being the one to define male and female roles.
  • Using sexual coercion: manipulating or pressuring her to have sex; getting her drunk or drugging her to have sex; refusing to use birth control or safe sex precautions.

And some strategies for your “backpack” are available here.

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