“Don’t be that Girl”…In the Age of Victim Blaming.

I came across this interesting campaign the other day called “Don’t be that Girl” that was circulating around Edmonton in early July. It is a picture of a girl smiling with the captions  “Just because you regret a one night stand, doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual” and “lying about sexual assault = a crime.” (see picture below). After doing some research, I came across a similar poster campaign in Saskatoon with the caption: “Canada is the most frightening place to be a man”.

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Both of these campaigns are a criticism of the popular “Don’t be that Guy” campaign that circulated around Western Canada for the last couple of years.”Don’t be that Guy” addresses the issue of drug facilitated sexual assault and consent – something that is clearly an issue in our society.

dont-be-that-guyAccording one study 48 percent of men between the ages of 18-25 do not consider sexual intercourse with a drunk woman rape. Even more disturbing: One in five Canadians believes a woman encourages sexual assault when she’s drunk. This is because media downplays the importance of consent (ie. the song “Blurred Lines”). As a result most Canadians have this idea that it is a woman’s responsibility to prevent sexual assault. In the real world however, A WOMAN IS NOT AND CANNOT PREVENT AN ATTACK OF SEXUAL ASSAULT in any circumstance!

This is why the “Don’t be that Guy” campaign is so important. For the first time, the message and the responsibility is directed at men, to educate them about consent and (drug facilitated) sexual assault. This is because; in 99% of sexual assault cases the perpetrator is a man. This may be because there are not enough programs that educate men about sexual violence and consent. Instead our society has put the responsibility on young girls and women to protect themselves against sexual assault –something that is impossible to do.
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When I saw this campaign a few months back I though, well Canada is finally making progress AND than, I came across this  “Don’t be that Girl” campaign. This so called campaign disregards drug facilitated sexual assault and consent. It further reassures the “she asked for it” message.  The way I interpreted the message of this campaign, it seems to be telling woman:  if you  decides to drink/consume substances and a guy rapes you, it’s your fault.

This campaign is a witch-hunt against women that come forward and speak out against the attacker. Everyone keeps saying sexual assault; especially drug-facilitated sexual assault is not so black and white however consumption of alcohol/drugs should not be held against the victim. More importantly the public has NO right to judge or hold a woman accountable because she was drinking/consuming drugs. A man has NO right to abuse that vulnerability. The “Don’t be that Girl” campaign judges women and protects men who prey on women. Such accusations and victim blaming have no room in the 21st century. A woman should feel safe to report an attack without being judged. There is a court of law for a reason where all the facts will be determined. Public lynching is unacceptable.

dont-be-that-guy-poster4I am very concerned about the fact that many people believe women are responsible for sexual assault. This campaign can greatly impact victims because many women, as a result of this campaign will not feel safe to come forward. This may also influence sexual assault in social settings, with alcohol/drug consumption because men may feel confident that they can get away with it since many people still blame women.

As a woman, I am frustrated by the amount of ignorance across Canada when it comes to sexual assault. I see it in my peers, younger generation and even our politicians. This ignorance is deeply rooted in our society. Campaigns such as these demonstrate the need for education and public discourse about sexual assault and consent.

Even though some sexual assault centres are doing amazing awareness work, more focus needs to be placed on speaking to men and boys about sexual assault, harassment and consent. I believe that many people do not understand what constitutes sexual assault and even more so consent.  As long as this is the case, sexual assault will continue to be overlooked while survivors struggle to go on with their lives.

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That being said, it is our responsibility to continue the conversation, challenge gender inequality, educate our peers and most importantly respect women!

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