Dating Safety Tips that Don't Blame the Victim
“Always tell a friend where you’re going.” “Meet in a public place.” “Wear shoes you can run in.” “Don’t walk home alone at night.” “Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.” “Don’t wear a revealing top.” “Never get into his car.” “Carry pepper spray.” “Have him drop you off a few blocks away from where you live.” “Always watch your drink being made.”
The list goes on and on. What woman* hasn’t weathered a barrage of dating safety tips? Hell, what woman hasn’t given out her own pearl of don’t-get-attacked wisdom?
Every tip comes from a well-intentioned place — preventing someone from being sexually assaulted — but every tip is also inherently flawed.
Things that do not cause rape:
· Dark streets
Things that do cause rape:
Victim-blaming is an attitude that suggests, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that the victim bears responsibility for the attack because she provokes the attack by dress, words, or actions.
But no matter where she was walking, how much she had to drink, what she was wearing, or even if she’d had a previous consensual encounter with the attacker, the victim is not to blame.
It. Is. Never. The. Victim’s. Fault.
Dating safety tips are aimed at potential victims. Therefore, they come with the implication that if the victim does not do this thing, she might get raped and it would be her fault because she did not do this thing.
“Watch your drink” implies that if you get drugged and attacked, it’s your fault because you didn’t watch your drink. “Always tell a friend where you’re going” suggests that if your date attacks you, it’s your fault because you didn’t ask anyone to watch your back.
See the issue?
It’s not a woman’s duty to stay safe
When murderers and terrorists shoot up nightclubs and concerts, the government and police don’t say, “avoid nightclubs and concerts.” But when there is a rapist on the loose, they say, "women, don’t walk at night/take the bus/meet new men alone etc.”
Why is it on us to change our behaviors to avoid being attacked? I’m not saying that we should leave our doors and windows unlocked, but we should be able to live our lives the way we want to live them without being afraid.
Besides, the only thing that every single rape has in common is a rapist.
How about instead of teaching women how to not get raped, we teach men not to rape women?
What a novel concept.
The dangerous illusion
All the tips in the world won’t protect us. Until we teach men not to attack women, safety is a fantasy.
No matter how often we check in with friends on dates, watch our backs on dark streets, or be aware of an exit when alone in a room with a guy, we won’t be able to prevent rape.
Why? The only way to avoid being raped is to never be around someone who is determined to rape. Which is often completely out of our control. At least in our current culture.
You want dating safety tips that don't blame the victim? There are none.
*Women are by no means the only victims of sexual assault. However, as a woman, I am choosing to speak about experiences of women in this article.