At 18 years old, exhausted by all the things I was being told I should have done to protect myself from being sexually assaulted by a friend, I wrote a satirical list of tips on "How to Avoid Rape." The list parodied the "tips" given to me, which always made me feel as if the responsibility for the assault was mine, rather than the perpetrator's.
Last week CTV News reported a list of safety tips issued by the Ottawa police, that sounded all too familiar. The list of tips aiming "to help females protect themselves" was released as a response to the two sexual assaults reported to Ottawa police on July 14. The advice included suggestions such as avoiding "walls, doorways and pillars" at night.
I immediately thought of the list I made in high school and how ridiculous it was that it is still relevant over 15 years later. These kinds of safety tips shame and blame survivors. They fall to recognize institutional barriers and that the responsibility for the assault is on the perpetrator. So, along with femifesto, a grassroots consent culture collective, and several rad Canadian feminists, we co-created an updated, intersectional version of my original tip sheet in the form of a handy infographic:
-Farrah Khan, femifesto
How To Not Get Raped: the smart way
1. Start Young: Learn self defence but know that you are physically limited and cannot defend yourself. Learn not to talk to strangers before you learn to talk. Learn not to walk alone before you learn to walk. Especially learn how to be accountable for your rapist's actions.
2. Trust Your Instincts: Avoid all environments where you feel unsafe and where sexual assaults commonly take place: walls, doorways, pillars, streets, sidewalks, corridors, elevators, lobbies, parking lots, cars, public transit, cabs, parks, bars, restaurants, apartments, houses, offices, universities, colleges, nursing homes and government institutions.
3. Always Conform: Don't embrace the power and pleasures of your own desires. Don't dress to impress - yourself. Don't find yourself gorgeous and alive and wanting to share that. Don't wear flirty skirts or revealing dresses. On the other hand do not be tomboyish. Avoid any expression that does not conform to gender norms as some people may use rape as a way to "discipline" you.
4. Don't Ask For It: Do not smile or be charming. Be pleasant and polite to everyone you meet -- if you're hostile, you may be asking for assault. Also, be sure you don't lead on your attacker. Never invite anyone into your home, but never be alone. Don't be coy. Don't be brazen. Don't confuse anyone -- mixed messages can be dangerous.
5. Protect Yourself: If you live alone, install extra locks, buy a dog, and carry a small weapon. If you live with others, carry the dog and weapon around your home. Also, make sure you don't carry the dog or weapon with you, as weapons could be used against you.
6. Date Smart: Don't go on dates alone, you could be attacked. Don't go on dates in groups because then you could be attacked by a number of people. But don't decline date offers either -- insulting a potential suitor is just asking for trouble.
7. If Attacked: Scream and struggle unless your attacker is the type who will kill you for fighting back. If you stay still for survival, make sure that they wouldn't have let you go if you had resisted. Talk kindly to them, but don't say anything that might sound bad in court. Protect yourself from injury, but make sure you get some bruises to count as evidence.
8. Call the Police: Unless you face institutional barriers to accessing justice i.e. Aboriginal peoples, women of colour, persons with a disability, trans* people, queer folks, sex workers, Muslim women that wear the niqab, youth, low income individuals, homeless people, newcomer women, those with precarious status, deaf people...you get the picture.
9. Avoid Rapists: Most importantly stay away from those who commonly commit assaults: strangers, family members, friends, partners, spouses, co-workers, bosses, clients, teachers, doctors, teammates, and police officers. Be extra careful during peak times when rapes occur i.e. daytime, nighttime, dawn, afternoon, early evening, tea time, nap time. If you suspect you are being followed, go to a well lit area: unless you can't because it's dark outside -- then set off a flare gun or light a torch. (Why are you outside when it's dark anyway?)
Created by femifesto: Sasha Elford, Shannon Giannitsopolou, Farrah Khan
In collaboration with: Rebecca Faria, Stephanie Guthrie, Julie Lalonde, Chanelle Gallant, and Lisa Mederios.
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