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Consent & the Importance of Enthusiasm

Rape and sexual assault has a deep and lasting effect on its victim’s lives and as a result, these issues always form a key component of any self-defence course.

Discussions about rape tend to focus on things that people, specifically women, can do to avoid it. What not to wear, how to behave, where not to walk, what not to drink…

While these tend to be (mostly) well-meaning and even useful, such ‘advice’ has unforeseen and (hopefully) unintended consequences, especially that of ‘victim blaming’.

One in five women have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. For someone who has been affected by sexual violence, reading such ‘advice’ can lead to harmful, negative thought-patterns; “If only I hadn’t worn that” / “If only I hadn’t had that drink.”

Rape is never the victim’s fault and yet the unhealthy focus on how women can avoid it perpetrates the idea that it should be a relatively simple thing to prevent. An idea that is reinforced by how our government deals with sex crimes (clue: focus is on the victims and not prevention; see Ally Fogg’s ‘Policy on Ending Sexual Violence – a thought experiment’) and our culture as a whole.

Aside from the negative connotations and victim-blaming, ‘advice’ in this form applies only to a specific type of rape – that of stranger rape – and yet the vast majority (90% in 2011/12) of serious sexual assaults are carried out by someone the victim knows.

Furthermore, while it is true that women are by far the main victims of sexual violence (about 85%) they are not the sole victims. It is important to remember that rape and sexual assault can affect anyone: female or male; straight or gay; cis or trans; from any and all walks of life.

In other words, in the majority of cases the traditional self-defence advice about sexual violence cannot be applied and, at worst, it encourages and reinforces an idea that victims of rape and sexual assault are partially, if not completely, to blame, as well marginalising other victims who already do not fall into the ‘typical’ majority.

Perhaps it is time for a different approach. Read More…

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