For a few years now, I have been hearing that universities have been handing out “rape whistles” to students on campus. Specifically, mainly first year students are encouraged, even by professors, to make sure and get a rape whistle.
What are the benefits of this whistle? Well you can make a loud piercing noise in the case of an attack. What are the disadvantages? How effective a whistle sound will be is uncertain, you have to physically find it if it is not directly in your hand, you have to carry around a rape whistle with the fear that at any moment you will get sexually assaulted by someone on campus.
As if society hasn’t already internalized victim blaming enough. Women already walk around with their own safety in mind. Everywhere women go, there is always some sort of safety precautions they take such as scanning an area, having your phone in your pocket, walking in groups etc.
What I’m trying to say is that handing out a whistle to students as a safety precaution is underlining that we are solely responsible for our own safety. In retrospect, why don’t they hand out rape whistles to sex offenders so that they can blow a whistle when they are planning to commit an assault? Or why not hand out pins that say “I’m a sex offender”. You see handing out a “rape whistle” puts the responsibility on the person carrying it for protection, not the sex offender.
Another example is when the law enforcement puts out advice for women such as being cautious walking alone at night, carrying pepper spray, walk in groups, don’t listen to your Ipod while walking in the dark. It’s as if women have not been walking around with all of these things in mind already. The heartbreaking truth is that most (not all) sexual assault happens indoors, and by someone who the victim knows. Once again, this shapes society to internalize that women are responsible for their own safety. I have not seen any advertising telling sexual assault offenders to “keep your hands to yourself, do not stalk anyone, let someone know in advance when you are going to commit an assault, inform the police when you are thinking of committing assault”.
I think that this is merely one example of how society is continuing to encourage a rape environment. We need to stop blaming the victims, and start putting responsibility on the perpetrators.
Written by a WAVAW Volunteer