Female soldier calls out victim-blaming Air Force flier with tips for how to “avoid becoming a victim” of sexual assault

Here’s a poster of helpful advice on “how to avoid being a victim” created by the sexual assault coordinator at Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Via Business Insider:

Ohio Air Force victim-blaming sexual assault post

I particularly love that this list of tips–all eight of which are directed at the potential victim–is under the title “Preventing Sexual Assault is Everyone’s Duty!” Maybe the guidelines for would-be perpetrators were just accidentally printed on the opposite of the flier? 

When Jennifer Stephens, a battalion commander in the state’s National Guard, saw the flier in the women’s bathroom at the base, she took action. She slapped a note with actual info survivors of sexual assault should know (what a novel idea) over the flier and penned a letter to the sexual assault response office. “Please take a moment to think about how you would feel if you had been assaulted,” she wrote, “and you went to a [Sexual Assault Coordinator] or Victims Advocate and one of the first questions they sled you was what you were wearing or if you were alone of if you were drunk.”

Word. And kudos to Stevens for speaking out.

Related:
Senator Gillibrand’s attempt to improve military sexual assault protocol blocked
Top general blames military’s sexual assault on “hookup culture.”
Air Force chief in charge of sexual assault prevention arrested for sexual assault
Defining violence, contextualizing military sexual trauma

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3 Comments

  1. Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey, this being in a women’s bathroom, I find it a little strange to ask where the guidelines for would-be perpetrators are.

    But also, I think calling this victim-blaming is going a little too far. I would NOT dispute that our society does sometimes blame the victim and that is absolutely wrong. But you can say both 1) “Hey guys, DO NOT SEXUALLY ASSAULT PEOPLE YOU JERKS” while also saying 2) “Women, because not all guys will listen to #1, here are some safety tips.” Those aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Like, at some point in my life I will tell my kids not to get in cars with strangers. That doesn’t mean I excuse kidnappers or blame kidnapping victims. It just means that I don’t think a campaign designed to get strangers to stop kidnapping will be sufficient to keep my kids safe when they need to be (i.e. right now).

    • Posted August 11, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      Some of the items on the list are legitimate self defence advice. The problems are the ones that are really vague and pretty much impossible to follow. Being prepared to get yourself home. What does that mean exactly? Don’t car pool? Don’t get into a cab in case the driver is a rapist? Don’t participate in night life unless you can afford to have your own car and drive it everywhere? Drive your own car home even if those couple of drinks affected you more than you predicted they would? I think what they mean is don’t let a rapist drive you home. I’ll get to the problem with that within the next couple of sentences. How do you get to know people enough to determine they share your values if you don’t socialize with them? Even if you do think they share your values, there is no guarantee they are not rapists. Rapists are people that we know, people that our friends will defend when we tell them what they did to us. There is a problem when women are advised never to trust or rely on anyone (impossible) and to only socialize with non-rapists (we can’t know). It’s not explicitly victim blaming, but it’s pretty clear that the person who made the list believes that women should not participate fully in social life due to the threat of rape. Bad “self defence advice” serves as an attempt to police women’s behaviour, not to help us reasonably reduce risk and defend ourselves. Several days ago, Feministing linked to a Cosmo article with a very poorly chosen headline about how to “avoid rape” that had some actual self defence advise that serves women in their lives as social human beings. You might compare and contrast that one with this one. What is the difference?

    • Posted August 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
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