Why Secondary Sexual Violence Prevention Education Isn't Always the Best
By Albie Nicol
It’s time we start talking about how secondary sexual violence prevention is uneffective, simply put: it does jack shit. Don’t get me wrong - if carrying pepper spray, taking self-defense classes, and carrying a whistle with you makes you feel safe- please do it. I am all about making people feel safe when I can, or they can do that for themselves. But actions liked this haven’t protected people in the past and will continue to do virtually nothing in the instance of an actual assault. While this is a very bold claim to make, it’s quite clear when society attempts to face the facts- secondary sexual violence prevention does not even hold a handle to primary sexual violence prevention: education.
Before we get started, here’s what secondary sexual violence protection is and how it’s ‘supposed’ to look. A bunch of workshops tell individuals to carry pepper spray, always have a ‘rape’ whistle, take self-defense classes so you can protect yourself against possible attackers, but in reality these practices remain unhelpful in actual situations.
For example, when 8/10 victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator (RAINN), is it realistic to think that someone would use pepper spray, self-defense, or try to alert someone if the perpetrator was someone they thought they could trust? A family member? A childhood friend? Having to mace or physically hurt someone you’ve cared about for ages is something impossible for people to imagine, much less do in a time of crisis and confusion.
Secondary sexual violence prevention also creates the myth that it is the victim’s responsibility to not be raped, when in reality, it’s society’s job to create a culture of consent and the perpetrator's responsibility to not sexually assault or violate others. When we use the promotion of secondary sexual violence prevention we are promoting a victim-blaming culture, something a lot of advocates and activists have fought to kill.
This is why we put such an important emphasis on education, preventing assault before it happens through educating others on consent and what it looks like- creating the society in which consent is considered necessary behavior (which is where we got our name).
So what is the primary sexual violence prevention tactic? EDUCATION. It should be a no-brainer at this point, but when we educate individuals on what consent looks like and what consent isn’t, we all have the same understanding of consent and can change our behaviors accordingly. Sadly, a lot of school programs and counseling programs put the blame on the survivor- that they could have protected themselves, or harmed the perpetrator- but in a split second, or if it’s someone you know and love, that’s not a sustainable answer the the problem of sexual violence in today’s world.
There are some schools and programs teaching a primary sexual violence prevention stance rather than secondary, and we all must support and take on this work in our own communities. For further resources we suggest RAINN (rainn.org), Break The Cycle (breakthecycle.org), And Green Dot (alteristic.org/services/greendot/) for education lessons and how to teach a culture of consent at different ages and stages of life.
It’s 2019 folx, wake up and smell the coffee- it’s time for a radical movement towards a culture of consent, created and fostered in America’s education system so we can no longer say ‘boys will be boys’, or ‘look at what they were wearing’, or ‘they asked for it’. Creating a culture of consent must actively shut down victim-blaming and it starts with putting primary sexual violence prevention in public school educational spheres.