The Sexist

VSU Police Department Removes Absurd Sexual Assault Prevention Tips

Picture 6As some commenters have noted, Georgia's Valdosta State University has apparently removed its Sexual Assault Prevention tips page that gave us such ludicrous pointers as "If you get on the elevator on the 25th floor, and the Boogie Man gets on the 22nd, get off when he gets on," and "[gouging a dude's eyes out] sounds gross, but the alternative is your fault if you do not act." We hardly knew ye.

Commenters have also noted that the Sexual Assault Prevention page lives "in infamy" (for now) in Google cache, so the curious can still get their heavy dose of victim-blaming scare tactics here. All kidding aside, though, I'd like to thank the folks at Valdosta State University for no longer endorsing these damaging "tips" on their Web site. I've already heard from several members of the campus community who are committed to making positive change in the school's sexual assault policies, and I look forward to VSU's future approach to these issues.

  • Jenga

    Honest question here, because I was thinking about these sexual assault prevention guidelines. In general, aren't "crime prevention" type tips aimed at the victims? Yes, these were absurdly bad and victim blame-y, but to some extent isn't that how tips go?
    I'm thinking things like, avoid central park at night to prevent getting mugged, don't pull over to pick up hitchhikers, carry a second wallet with like 10 bucks and some basic membership cards, such that you can give a mugger that wallet, etc.

    note: I am not trying to apologize for these tips specifically, but trying to gain an understanding as to if sexual assault prevention tips (good ones) follow a general crime prevention mold, or if they are especially victim blaming.

  • Amanda Hess

    Hey Jenga:

    I've been thinking about this as well, and hope to have a post up about it today or Monday.

  • K

    The problem I find with "sexual assault prevention tips" is that they are completely useless in the case of the most common type of rape: acquaintance rape. The admonishments about not drinking too much and not walking alone at night are good advice to prevent *any* sort of stranger-crime, from a mugging to a beating to rape. But unlike most muggings and beatings, the majority of rapes don't happen like this. The majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes and happen in "safe places" such as the victim's home or the home of a friend or family member.

    And crime tips like "don't pick up a hitchhiker" are still aimed at preventing assault by a suspicious stranger: Why are they hitchhiking in the first place?
    An "anti-rape" tip like, "Don't talk to strangers in bars" is silly, because being at a bar is not suspicious or unusual activity.

  • Le

    I actually found the stranger rape prevention tips helpful, since they were very direct. I like how it addresses being aware of your surroundings, to listen to your instincts, what to do to make yourself not look like as much of a target, to get OUT of the situation, and to not go with your natural tendency to want to help or be sympathetic.

    Some parts, such as 'shame on you [for not having a cell phone with you in your broken down car]' need to be reworded, as it sounds like it is from the eighteenth century. I think the author's intent was to drive home the message that it is good to have a cell phone, but still wanting to give tips on what you should do if you don't have one with you.

    The "some women have a tendency to [just sit in their cars]" needs to be modified to reflect any sex. The language does seem to inappropriately reflect negativity toward the women referred to.

    The 'Boogie Man' getting into the elevator was not very helpful. It could've been more helpful if the article elaborated more on listening to your instincts when on the elevator.

    Just me two cents :)

  • meg

    I think they were helpful to someone who has not had this driven into their head their entire life. Women have always been portrayed as the "helpless", "illogical", "dainty", human beings that can't defend themselves, and these tips kind of drove that home. I'm a student at Valdosta State and the thing that pisses me off about the tips is the way the school brags about their security system and the fact that they have "call boxes" for police officers to come escort you to your room/home if you feel unsafe, but why would you want someone who has obviously agreed with the fact that it's "your fault" if you don't gauge their eyes out and get raped to escort you? It's a little hypocritical, in my eyes.

    And the boogie-man comment is making a joke out of the fact that several women are raped on our campus repeatedly throughout the semester. It's taking this patriarchal school and trying to downplay it by using terms like this. And, typically throughout childhood, the boogie man was something that children were afraid of, but never existed. (Check under the bed for the boogie man before you go to sleep... he was never really there.) so it's kind of pointing towards an idea that we make too big of a deal out of sexual assaults, when in actuality, it's the other way around.

    And, like you said Le, the whole article downplays the intelligence of women. These tips really should've been aimed towards any gender, and maybe had multiple genders help in the writing of them, and they wouldn't have come across as being so offensive and derogatory.

  • kandy

    These tips were from an email that made the rounds in the last few years; citing Pat Malone a victim advocate and self defense instructor as the original author. I'm guessing someone on the police force saw the email and thought they'd be helpful to students and posted them.

    I did a little searching and found the exact same tips (and wording) on a ton of web sites. So I don't think this is something this school came up with on their own.

    Their intention was probably good, even if they failed to use a critical eye toward the gender specificty and stereotyping.

    I wonder if calling them and discussing the disturbing list would have been as effective as posting a scathing article? Would be an interesting case study in proactive versus reactive change strategies.

  • Alumni

    I think you have absolutely no clue what you're talking about. It's not surprising though that you're still writing a column. Here's the issue. The tips that you are referring to are not coming out of thin air. They are being created and being stated because women have a tendency to be very naive. The tips, nor the University, are calling girls dumb, but suggesting that we pay a little bit more attention to what is going on around us.

    You, being a feminist, have this mentatlity that all women are empowered and shouldn't be down-played in a way that suggests we aren't as bright as others. Well let's face it, statistically, women are the victims espcially in sexual assault cases.

    I graduated from VSU recently and things like this happen all the time. We are the prime campus for that. We are only 18 miles fromt he Florida boarder so we are in great proximity to any Florida beach. We are 3 hours from Atlanta and we are the furtherst univeristy from "home" but still within in-state tuition. A lot of young girls come to VSU with the mindset that this is still home. Valdosta isn't home. This is a land-locked university that is busting at the seams into the city around it and invading into areas that aren't too pleased. Our crime rate has gone up in the past year significantly, and since the univeristy is in the center of the city, the campus will be affected.

    I have delt with the Valdosta State Univeristy's Police Department personally before about sexual assaults and tips. The tips need to be posted. You can take them how you want to, but the truth is that girls need to be aware. It's not very often that men get sexually assaulted so why would they listen anyway. None of these tips are degrading to women regardless of the approach. Maybe a sense of humor is a good break with these tips on this topic because it doesn't seem like we've been paying too much attention before when they were more stern and serious because these assualts are still happening.

    Women and young girls need to pay more attention. We need to be aware of what is around us at all times. We need to make sure that we take no person or situatino for granted. Anything can happen at any time from any person. That's our problem. We're too trusting and we're very naive. We need to look at these steps more closely and start looking at our surroundings the same.

    Think before you blab your opinion next time. You don't live here, so don't talk about it. I don't live where you are, so I won't make false, ill-informed judgements either.

  • TJ

    @Alumni... I don't think that I would go so far as to say that Amanda doesn't know what she's talking about. From Amanda's many posts, I think you two agree that women need to be aware of their surroundings so they can protect themselves. And if Amanda actually believes (which I hope) that all women ARE empowered and don't need to be talked down to, I agree with her. There is a way to get information out without calling a potential suspect of assault the "Boogie Man." As young as college students are, they are still technically adults (by legal standards), and I believe one of the points of higher education is to prepare young people for the next phase in their lives (oh God, how am I 32 sounding like my 65 year old mother? Young people???). Assault is nothing to laugh at, so trying to use humor in this situation is a bit inappropriate to me, especially if you are as concerned about the maturity of many of the new female freshman.

    I would think that if the problem of assault is as bad as you say it is, then the issue of assault or violence of any kind should not be taken lightly. The fact that the tips have been taken down shows that more than just Amanda thought that they could be construed as more offensive than helpful. And I didn't get the impression that they are going away forever... I gathered that they will be revamped.

    Or at least I hope that's the plan, especially if the ladies on your old campus are as naive as you say they are...