Finally! A campaign that focuses on the perpetrator instead of the victim. In November of 2010 Edmonton launched the first Don’t be that Guy Campaign. Now Calgary is following in their footsteps and is launching it here. This week you’ll start to notice some in your face posters, such as the one to the left, on CTrains, buses, in nightclub, and in the universities. The posters are mostly targeting men, and will appear in nightclub and university washrooms, as well as other high traffic sites around town.
The DBTGC is being launched by the ‘Sexual Assault Voices of Calgary’. An organization that seeks to change societal thinking: “We are looking at societal change here, it’s important to remember this is not just a police initiative, this involves so many different organizations” says detective Paul Wyatt of the Calgary Police Service’s Sex Crimes Unit. The partners he is refering to includes: Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, Alberta Health Service, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, Calgary Police Service, Calgary Sexual Health Centre, Canadian Red Cross, Connect Family and Sexual Abuse Network and HomeFront.
The in your face campaign is aimed at Men, 18-24, in order to not only take the onus off the victim but bring men into the conversation about sexual assault. The message that this campaign is trying to get across is clear: “if someone is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs they cannot give consent, and sex without consent is sexual assault.” Police Chief Rick Hanson hopes to push the message home as well “You can no longer hide behind the mistaken belief that it’s okay to use drugs or alcohol,as an excuse, or think because a woman did not give you a ‘no’ answer, that it means ‘yes’.”
On every poster the message ” Sex Without Consent = Sexual assault” appears at the bottom. The SAV website also pushes the message that if you have sex without consent, it’s sexual assault:
” sexual assault is any form of sexual activity forced on someone else without that person’s consent. Force can be physical, or through the use of threats, bullying, manipulation, alcohol/drugs or harassment. Any unwanted sexual activity–including kissing, touching, groping, flashing, oral sex, intercourse, photographing, etc.–under ANY circumstances is sexual assault.”
The website includes a section that talks about what consent is and what consent is not. For example, it reads: “Consent is simple. Just ask.” and in contrast to that reads: “Consent is not obtained if the person changes her/his mind. And a person can change his or her mind at ANY time.”
The campaign is meant to change the minds of men, reminding them that the fight against sexual assault involves them as well, and if they see it they too need to step up and say something. “This is a multi-scale approach, not only do we want to get the message out there that it’s never the victims fault, you weren’t in the wrong place, you weren’t drinking too much, you weren’t dressed the wrong way. But we want to target those men to tell them that this behaviour is not acceptable. We also want to target the men who are with them. Those who can stand up to their friends and remind them if you do this you are going to go to jail” says Wyatt. Reminding us that this is a community effort. If we see something we need to stand up against it, and once and for all shake this idea that somehow a women brought on her assault because she was wearing a short skirt and high heels.
We put the onus on the victim too much in our community today, sending the message to perpetrators that it is OK, as a result causing more damage to the victim. As a victim of assault I know that we begin to internalize these feelings. You start to feel that maybe it really is your fault, maybe if you hadn’t had that one extra drink, or worn that short skirt, or walked down that dark street alone, or in my case rollerbladed down that dark pathway, it wouldn’t have happened to us. But it does happen to us. “As a community, it is important for us to stand together and say this type of behaviour is not acceptable and the consequences are too great.” says Laurie Blahitka, of Alberta Health Services.
Not only is this a message about consent, consequences, and victim blaming, it’s also a way to bring men into the conversation. It’s about making men part of the solution too. This is so important because if we remain divided, we’ll never win. As a victim, and an advocate I am so glad to see that people are finally starting to realize it’s going to take the cooperation of all kinds of organizations and people to start changing the minds of society.
I will leave you with a great quote from the SAVCalgary website :
If we keep thinking about the sexual abuses and sexual assaults committed by men as a ‘women’s issue’, we’re not going to do much about truly preventing that violence. The women you care about–and your kids–should live and grow up in a society where male violence against women is not acceptable. Not legally, not morally, not socially.