What are tips?

image3Tips are the bits of advice and rules traditionally told to women to help them avoid being raped. Common tips include: don’t walk home alone at night, carry a rape-whistle, use the buddy-system, always watch your drink, and take a self-defense class.

Everyone wants to feel safe and to protect their friends and families. It might seem like these tips would be a great way to prevent sexual assault. Unfortunately, because these types of tips are based on misconceptions, they don’t actually work. And not only are these tips useless, they are harmful to survivors of sexual assault.

Tips create unreasonable expectations and restrictions. So apparently we are never supposed to drink, walk alone, go out after dark, or leave the house without some sort of weapon.

And if we get assaulted while we’re breaking one of these “rules,” we’re told it’s our fault.

This contributes to survivors’ self-blame and guilt, and reduces the chance that they will access support. Instead of helping us work towards a world where we feel safe, these tips create a culture of fear.

Tips also distort the image2reality of sexual violence. They further the idea that certain things you do make you more vulnerable to sexual assault. In reality, the only thing that makes sexual assault happen is the presence of a perpetrator who chooses to assault. There is no specific population that all perpetrators target. Some perpetrators target drunk people, while others target sober people. Some perpetrators target people at parties, while others target people in their own homes. The only common theme here is that a perpetrator is present. So how can tips work when they don’t address perpetrators?

So, in summary, tips themselves are myths. They are based on false information, they blame survivors, and they do nothing to hold perpetrators accountable.