In our culture, women are constantly questioned about their alcohol consumption, what they were wearing, and if they “were asking for it,” after coming forward about being raped. Instead of teaching, “don’t rape” to young men, women are taught to be safe, taking care to “not get raped.” Victims of sexual assault know that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the things that happened to them, but in a society where victim blaming is the norm, predators are rarely forced to take accountability.

Just because she's drinking, doesn't mean she wants sex. Sex without consent = sexual assault.

Just because she’s drinking, doesn’t mean she wants sex. Sex without consent = sexual assault.
Image: Don’t Be that Guy

One city that is radically changing the face of rape prevention is Vancouver, B.C., where officials and women’s rights advocates recognize the need for rapist accountability and a collective shift in approach to sexual assault awareness. When reports of sexual assault were on the rise in Vancouver, its police department, crises groups, and support services joined together to create a campaign with one clear message: Don’t be that guy.

The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign was first unveiled in 2010 as a way to get people thinking differently about rape prevention. Through the spreading of posters, community outreach, and bolstering the local law enforcement presence, the campaign has been incredibly effective in reducing rates of reported sexual assault, and has been adopted by other cities across Canada. “Don’t Be That Guy” is a campaign that aims to present men with a very simple message: Don’t be that guy who preys on women when they are vulnerable. Don’t be that guy who doesn’t take no for an answer. Don’t contribute to rape culture and don’t rape women.

According to the Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE), “Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to self-blame in survivors,” of the ways in which women are constantly blamed after reporting a sexual assault. SAVE was instrumental in the formation of the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign, approaching sexual assault awareness from a more proactive angle. With collaboration between the Vancouver Police Department, BC Women’s Hospital Sexual Assault Service, the Battered Women’s Support Services, Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), and SAVE, “Don’t Be That Guy” was launched and met with monumental support and success.

The campaign is inclusive, progressive, and defies the stereotypes heightened by rape culture. It promotes consent, and implores men to take responsibility and to understand the differences between consensual sex and rape. The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign clearly states, “Sex without consent is sexual assault,” and “Just because she isn’t saying no…doesn’t mean she’s saying yes,” among other messages that have helped to curb sexual assaults in Vancouver.

What do you think about the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign?

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