Rape myths and prevention

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By Ken Niezgoda,
Founder of Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention

Myth is as dangerous as fact when it comes to violence against women. The key to staying safe is to separate truth from urban legend and other misconceptions.  One of the first questions I ask women when I teach a violence prevention class is “What steps do you currently take to avoid violence and rape?”  Inevitably I will hear one or more of these answers:

“I avoid dark streets and alleys.”
“I don’t go out at night.”
And even…
“I dress in ‘guy’ clothes when I go out alone so that I don’t attract attention.”

In one Portland area high school, a health teacher told female students to not wear ponytails. The teacher had read an Internet report in which a rapist told an interviewer that he looked for girls with ponytails that he could grab during an attack.

These violence prevention steps are all based in myth and misconceptions. Not only do they do little to help avoid the majority of rape situations, they give a woman the false sense that she’s done something significant to keep herself safe.

The reality:

Rape occurs anywhere, any time of day, and not just in dark alleys. Nearly half of all rapes occur in a home.

While many women see strangers as a danger, eight out of every ten rapes are committed by someone whom the victim knows.

Rapists attack anyone they feel they can overpower: Women, elderly, children, the handicapped. It is a crime of power, not sex. Looking “unattractive” does nothing to prevent rape.

Women need to learn the facts in order to stay safe. One of the best resources is the national best-seller, The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker. Written by the nation’s leading violence prediction and prevention expert, this guide offers fact-based suggestions on how to avoid rape situations.

— About the author: Ken Niezgoda is a Portland-area violence prevention instructor and Tae Kwon Do black belt. He is also a professional instructional designer and has created a violence and sexual assault prevention curriculum for young women that any school or non-profit organization can download and use free of charge from: http://tkd.pacificpaper.us/.