Feminism | Posted by Amber Q on 01/11/2012

FWD: How To Prevent Rape

whats in your inbox?

I’ve always hated chain letters. They’re never nice, like, ‘Just for receiving this, you get a free puppy’. No, it’s always, ‘If you don’t forward this to ten people you’re going to die alone and get eaten by worms.’ Most of them are, obviously enough, completely bogus, appealing to the superstitious side of us that, despite all that science has proven, never really dies. They’re annoying, but little more. You delete them after a brief glance and get on with your day.

However, I recently got an email forward that wasn’t quite so innocent. You’ve probably received one at some point yourself. The subject was something attention grabbing, but legitimate enough: Important Safety Warning, Please Read (or something to that effect.) When you open the email, there’s information about the latest method rapists/serial killers use to lure women to their deaths. They always include practical tips for women, with numbers to call or things to avoid doing to keep safe.

“How is that dangerous?” you might wonder. “It seems like these emails aim to protect women, not harm them.” But really, is that what they’re doing?

A quick Google search will reveal that the vast majority of these so called crime waves are completely unverifiable – at least the way they’re described in these emails. Gang rapists are not leaving fake babies on the side of the road to lure women out of their cars. They are not throwing eggs at windshields that block ’92.5%’ of the drivers vision so they are forced to pull over and get raped and killed. And, in all honesty, if these things were happening, don’t you think the police would find a more legitimate way to warn the public than unverifiable chain letters?

So now that we’re clear that most of these stories are complete and utter lies, we can move onto the more important question: Why are they still dangerous? After all, isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

While I think it is imperative that women be smart and alert, the information in these email forwards isn’t even teaching women to do that. In most cases, the tips they give are obvious, and at times (more dangerously) even false. In fact, the only purpose these emails have is to scare women into believing they shouldn’t go anywhere alone, or at night, or drive a car by themselves. And what does that do? It propagates the completely false idea that women are weak, vulnerable creatures in constant need of protection.

Seriously, if these emails were truly aimed at protecting the general population, why aren’t any of them about men? Why are they all about women preventing rape? Because while hundreds of email forwards focus on how women can protect themselves from being raped, none ever focus on the actual problem: the fact that men rape to begin with. It’s because these emails aren’t truly aimed at protecting anyone, really. They’re about fear-mongering and undermining women. There’s an excellent email forward with Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work – ones aimed at potential rapists.

I mean, think about it. Do you think rapists don’t have email accounts? What about friends and family members that forward these emails? Of course they do. Yet, as a society, while it is completely alright to address every female as a potential victim, and harass her with completely false emails filled with lies about how she is going to be attacked, raped and murdered just for leaving her house, it is unthinkable that you would ever address any male as a potential rapist. Because rapists aren’t ever brothers, friends, or boyfriends, society figures. They are monsters existing entirely apart from society that were born to assault women.

So what can you do? Next time you receive a fear-mongering rape email, do a brief internet search. Once you’ve verified that it’s false, tell whoever sent it to you, as politely as possible. The idea isn’t to point fingers, but to spread awareness of what the actual problems are in our society. And if you’re feeling especially gutsy, send the link above to all of your contacts, with the real ways to prevent rape.

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  • The K. @ at 12:55 pm, January 11th, 2012

    “Because while hundreds of email forwards focus on how women can protect themselves from being raped, none ever focus on the actual problem: the fact that men rape to begin with.”

    Exactly. Where are the emails that say “don’t live in fear for the rest of your life”? It is a part of life for womyn, but what we can do is to live it out. Some day we won’t have to worry.

  • Juliana @ at 9:50 pm, January 14th, 2012

    I think even more problematic is the fact that these emails perpetuate the idea that rape is something that women cause through their sexuality or through being vulnerable in public. However, studies have shown that most rapists know their victims, and that rape is rarely about sex so much as power. Most rapists have access to someone with whom they could have consensual sex, whether a partner or a hook-up buddy, and few rapists cite seeking their victims due to their overly-revealing clothing rather than clothing that is easy to get off or cut. Conclusion: rape is not something you cause or are unprepared to prevent, rather the fault of the RAPIST him/herself.

  • Morgan SW @ at 7:29 pm, January 17th, 2012

    Thank you for writing this! I always get so enraged when I get these emails. They do no good.
    When I first received an e-mail like this I started getting anxious just reading and thinking about what I had to do to protect myself.
    Then I took a minute to reflect and realize how outrageous it was.
    Of course we take extra safety procautions while walking home alone or at a bar. These e-mails are not only offensive (they assume you don’t already take your safety seriously and therefore undermine you) but it’s fear mongering on a large scale.
    The way they are written is made to incite fear in the reader so that if she gets sexually assaulted all she thinks of is what she could have done to prevent it. Hello victim blaming!

  • stephen @ at 5:42 am, January 18th, 2012

    Tell rapists not to rape? What a wonderful solution! Now we only need to tell thieves not to steal and murderers not to kill and everything will be fine!

  • arduino @ at 7:47 pm, January 20th, 2012

    Stephen hit the nail on the head. Potential rapists, just like potential thieves cannot be effectively targeted like this, and the whole “you may be a rapist” approach is an awful thing to conceive.

    Just like certain behavior puts you at risk of being mugged/robbed, the same applies to being raped.

    I agree that inducing fear in women is not good solution. Chain-mails on such topics simply shouldn’t circulate.

    I never get chain-mail of any kind, because i select whom i associate with.

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