“Such ‘risk management’ or ‘rape avoidance’ approaches to sexual violence prevention are highly problematic for several reasons. First, risk management represents an inaccurate model of sexual violence victimisation, as even women who follow the safety guidelines may still become victims (see Carmody, 2006[*]; Lawson & Olle, 2006[**]; Neame, 2003[***]). Indeed, the list of behaviours women are instructed to avoid are often so encompassing that ‘we could remind women that taking their vaginas out […] with them is “risky”’ (Lawson & Olle, 2006[**], p.50). Moreover, sexual assaults are rarely committed by strangers in public spaces preying on ‘risky’ or ‘unprotected’ women but rather by known men at residential locations, often the victim’s or perpetrator’s home (Keel, 2005[~]; Neame, 2003[***]).
Another issue with the victim-focused risk management approach to sexual violence prevention is that it conveniently makes the perpetrators of sexual violence and coercion invisible, at the same time ‘denying women a right to be safe’ (Lawson & Olle, 2006[**], p.50). Finally, prevention models that emphasise women’s risk management tend to lend themselves to strategies that teach young women ‘refusal skills’ and how to say ‘no’ clearly and assertively. While it may remain important to encourage and empower women to assertively refuse unwanted sex, it is arguably counter-productive to position rape as primarily a problem of women’s ‘miscommunication’ (see Kitzinger & Frith, 1999[~~]) rather than a problem of perpetrators’ indifference to consent. Indeed, such models of sexual violence prevention remain contentious for feminists and victim advocates, largely due to the vast number of strategies that have focused on modifying women’s behaviour so as not to ‘precipitate’ sexual assault (Neame, 2003[***]). In other words, the focus is on the ‘target’ and ‘guardianship’ aspects of the crime while ignoring or minimising the responsibility of perpetrators and the cultural and social conditions that produced the offending in the first place.”
Powell, Anastasia and Nicola Henry. 2014. “Framing Sexual Violence Prevention: What Does It Mean to Challenge a Rape Culture?” Pp.1-21 in Preventing Sexual Violence: Interdisciplinary Approaches, edited by N. Henry and A. Powell. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [Pp. 8-9. Full references by Powell & Henry reproduced below. Links and bold not in original.]
[*] Carmody, M. (2006) ‘Preventing Adult Sexual Violence Through Education?’, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 18(2), 342-356.
[**] Lawson, S and Olle, L. (2006) ‘Dangerous Drink Spiking Archetypes’, Women Against Violence: A Feminist Journal, 18, 46-55.
[***] Neame, A. (2003) ‘Differences Perspectives on “Preventing” Adult Sexual Assault’, ACSSA Aware, 2, 8-14 (Melbourne, VIC: Australian Institute of Family Studies). [Pp. 8-14 of this newsletter.]
[~] Keel, M. (2005) ‘Prevention of Sexual Assault,’ ACSSA Aware Newsletter, 8, 16-24. (Melbourne, VIC: Australian Institute of Family Studies). [Pp. 16-25 of this newsletter.]
[~~] Kitzinger, C & Frith, H. (1999) ‘Just Say No? The Use of Conversation Analysis in Developing a Feminist Perspective on Sexual Refusal,’ Discourse and Society, 10(3), 293-316.