My first impression of the Sexual Assault Prevention Tips poster confused me. I read it quickly, in extreme discomfort and distaste, then unconsciously pondered why this message appealed to the beloved friend who posted it. I’m forgiving to a fault, if such a thing exists, so I dismissed it from memory. (Perhaps I’m not forgiving at all – rather, forgetful to a fault.)
(scroll past poster)
Next day, there it is again, posted by yet another brilliant, beautiful woman. O.k. What am I missing? Again, quick to dismiss.
A sleepless night
riddled with disturbing dreams
A too early morning
pervaded by this f***ing poster
Now I suck at forgiving AND forgetting. And I remember – as long as I can remember – the sexual assault prevention tips I grew up with:
- You are responsible for not letting anyone drug your drink. Never let it out of your sight. Cue horror stories.
- Strangers are NOT to be trusted. Translate “I need directions” to “I’m going to assault you (if you LET me).” Cue horror stories.
- Keep your vehicle in excellent maintenance. If you’re ever stranded, the person who offers to help might hurt you. Cue horror stories.
- Keep your doors locked. Not locking them is as good as inviting in villains. Cue horror stories.
- Elevator etiquette: This is no time be friendly. No eye contact. It’s awkward. They’re either friendlies or not. What can you do but cue horror stories.
- It isn’t safe to be alone, outside at night. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM. If you don’t, you’re just asking for it. Cue horror stories.
- Acquaintances and dates can’t be trusted. They just can’t help themselves to raping you. Cue horror stories.
- If you drink to excess and pass out, people will help themselves to your body. Cue horror stories.
- Arm yourself (like a girl) with a whistle. They scare away the bad guys.
And I remember. Not believing, not heeding, breaking rule #7. Living the horror that the stories didn’t do justice.
Imagine unimaginable pain
of the physical
Some of it lasts
Some of it lasts
Oh, there’s always a temporary forgiving
A temporary forgetting
Until someone posts a f***ing poster
And I have to forgive and forget all over again
How to effect
a lasting forgiving?
How to reject
a lasting forgetting?
In the end
and every beginning
I only know how to pray
and advocate for education
Out of my shadow, out of hiding
Out of shame, out of fear
Into my light, into exposure
Into honor, into love
So this poster is absurd, no doubt – as absurd as the rules girls grow up with. Women’s sexual assault prevention tips are the western world’s burkas. How presumptuous, how primitive, how pot calling the burka black are we? These men’s sexual assault prevention tips are the light on our collective shadow, exposing our hidden secrets, honoring women’s shame, loving the hell OUT of fear.