**Trigger warning for discussion of rape incidents and victim blaming
One of the perks of being an undergrad at my university was that every time there was a police report about a rape or sexual assault in a dark ally, a university wide email would go out with tips on how not to get raped. The emails contained very “useful” information like “don’t walk around alone at night.” Giving women tips on how not to get raped seems to be a popular thing to do these days.
The only issue is that it is absolutely useless and ridiculous. For most women, these tips are just a routine part of life, not new advice. Many of us try our damned hardest not to put ourselves in any situation where we would be “at fault” for getting raped. Even though most rapes don’t occur from strangers in the dark night, we still follow the unwritten law that darkness and alone are a bad combination for women, as we are told this again and again. It goes to the extent where some women at my university avoid late night study groups or review sessions just to avoid getting stuck having to get home late at night. Sending out an email to all of us telling us something so useless is just demeaning.
This leads me to my next point on victim blaming. It’s the self-defense argument. Recently there has been a lot of gun hype on my current university campus in addition to the huge hype that is in the media about gun control. Those who have a conceal and carry permit are now allowed to carry guns on my campus. There was an article about it the local paper, and a female student was interviewed. She said it was important for her to carry a gun because she had a late evening class and had to walk home alone. I can understand her fear, and I am sure it is empowering to feel that you are defending yourself. In fact, as female students, we are usually bombarded with advice telling us not to walk alone at night, so I can see when there is a glimmer of hope where we might be able to ignore this unwritten rule, it would be taken up. However, I don’t think a gun solves the problem of rape. It doesn’t even come close.
What finally triggered me to write this article was a picture going around in response to the comment made by Joe Salazar. A male friend posted it. Not only is it a disgusting image of a woman being victimized, it gives the wrong impression that guns magically ward away all rape. The image is shown below.
[Trigger Warning, image contains depiction of sexual assault]
The real rape statistics
The things I want to say to people passing this picture and similar ideas around
I want to ask the supporters of this image some questions about rape, since they seem to think rape can be used as a valiant argument for gun owners.
Just how often do you think rape occurs in a dark alley from some scary stranger? If I am walking alone at night and there is some guy walking behind me, should I reach into my purse and put my hand on my gun just in case? What if a man is walking towards me? Should I pull out my gun to let him know that I am not going to get raped tonight? After all, I probably wouldn’t know that he was out to rape me until it was too late.
How would you feel if you were walking down the street, and you walk up to some woman to ask her directions and she reaches into her purse to make sure she has her gun handy? After all, if she doesn’t, and you happen to be a rapist, it would be her fault for not trying to defend herself, right?
But let’s just throw that whole random stranger thing away for a minute. In a recent CDC report, only 13.8% of women who have been victims of rape reported that it was from a stranger. Now consider that a percentage of these stranger rapes were committed in situations where the victim was drugged or incapacitated and would not have the ability to defend themselves with a gun. In the small percentage that is left over, how often do you think a gun would really work? This article contains two stories of gun owners who were victims of rape. (Trigger Warning for the link).
Now, let’s talk about the 86.2% of rapes that are committed by someone that the victim knows. Do you really think women are going to make sure their gun is right on them when they are hanging out with an acquaintance? Furthermore, even if a female is carrying a gun on her, do you think if her acquaintance is making a move on her that she is going to shoot first and ask questions later? Don’t you think maybe she might be trying to process the situation instead, or be trying to think of ways to decline her acquaintance, or be in a state of shock or disbelief?
I don’t believe I know anyone who would be able to shoot a perceived friend that is trying to rape them. Not only because of the victim is trying to process the situation and determine what exactly is happening, but also because murder to most people seems like a very last resort, like something that would be used in a situation where if you don’t shoot now you will be killed immediately. Furthermore, as a society, we don’t deem rape as a very bad crime. The time done in jail is relatively short, and it definitely does not come anywhere near a death sentence. In fact, rape is so difficult to prove that it is estimated only 3% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. Using those statistics, can you imagine how difficult it would be for a woman to prove she was trying to defend herself against a potential rapist she shot at, who had not yet committed rape?
Guns might be a way for you to put your mind at ease when you are walking home, but in the end, rape is not some simple scene from a bad action film where a rapist jumps up behind an armed women with a gun already in hand, ready and loaded.
The reason we have rape is not because women aren’t defending themselves, or walking alone at night. The reason we have rape is because we have rapists.