How to REALLY Prevent Rape

Trigger warning: discussion of rape/sexual violence

This post is going to be really boring. I’m sorry. But apparently, we need to keep saying exactly the same thing, over and over again, because some people still don’t get it:

Women are not responsible for being raped.

That means that we can’t prevent rape by producing posters like this:

Herts County Council poster. Original image:

Or this:

South Wales Police poster, 2009. original image:

Neither of these posters will prevent one single rape from taking place. This is because women do not ‘cause’ rape by being drunk, walking home alone at night or dressing provocatively. Rapists cause rape. They choose to do it, because they want to and they think they’ll get away with it.

What these posters will achieve, though, is:

1)      Making survivors of rape feel stupid and blame themselves. Any woman who has ever been raped when she happened to be drunk is now, on top of everything else, being officially told by Hertfordshire County Council and South Wales Police that it was Her Fault. It wasn’t. She chose to go out with friends, dance, drink and enjoy herself. Thousands of women do this happily every night. The only difference is that she just happened to come across a rapist. He chose to rape her. It really is all his fault.

2)      Making women feel scared to go out. Restricting women’s freedom and taking away our choices about how we live our lives by telling us that if we go out at night and drink alcohol we are at risk of being raped and it will be our fault if we are. We are always at risk of being raped. It’s called being a woman in a patriarchal society.

3)      Telling rapists that it’s OK to prey on drunk women or women on their own, because it’s their stupid fault for being drunk or alone in the first place. Reassuring them that even if it does get to court, they will get found not guilty or given a lenient sentence because everyone knows it was Her Fault Really.

4)      Normalising male violence. Telling us that there are scary rapists out there, there’s nothing we can do about it, so women are the ones who need to take responsibility and change their behaviour to fit around the inevitable nasty rapists out there. Male sexual violence is not normal. Most men are not rapists. Every night, thousands of men come home and don’t rape their partners. Thousands of men walk past drunk women in miniskirts and fail to spontaneously rape them, because they aren’t rapists.

What would be really great would be if Herts County Council or South Wales Police had produced a poster that said “Rapists! We know that you are completely responsible for your actions. We know that you rape because you enjoy power and control over women. We find this disgusting. Society finds this disgusting. That’s why, whenever a woman reports a rape to the police, we believe her. That’s why, when you’re in court, there’s no point your lawyer coming out with pathetic victim-blaming excuses, because no-one will believe them. That’s why, if you ever rape a woman, you WILL go to prison.”

The conviction rate for rape in this country is 6.5%. 85% of rapes are never reported to the police. It would be great if they could produce a poster like that. But first, it would have to be true.


For support around sexual violence, the Rape Crisis national helpline is available on 0808 802 9999, open every day 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm.

5 Comments on “How to REALLY Prevent Rape”

  1. KM says:

    The Herts County Council poster is so, so wrong. The word “regret” skeeves me out a lot, since usually you regret making a bad choice, but no-one chooses to be raped. And the picture a naked woman lying in (what looks like) the street plays to the myth that you’re more likely by a stranger, which is a huge disservice, since in reality we’re more likely to be raped indoors by someone we know and trust. Thanks for writing this.

  2. blueanna says:

    and this bit just hits the nail on the head for me: “Every night, thousands of men come home and don’t rape their partners. Thousands of men walk past drunk women in miniskirts and fail to spontaneously rape them, because they aren’t rapists.”

  3. E-R says:

    What could possibly be going through the minds of the people who created these posters? They seem to think rapists are like dangers in the natural environment- cliff edges, or deep water or icy pavements- Women! Watch out for a naturally occurring feature of the environment that we can’t do anything about!
    Perhaps FAC could produce some of its own anti-rape posters targeted at men, and get a counter-campaign going?

  4. rachelette says:

    Rape Crisis Scotland have some good ones: and there’s this campaign in Canada:

  5. […] but I hope the people who searched for variations of ‘how to prevent rape’ were reassured by my post that it is not our responsibility as women to prevent rape, and that women who do experience rape […]

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