Since I seemed to be the only person who didn't love Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (i.e.: the most stressful show on Prime Time television) I decided this semester to start watching with my nifty Netflix account (thanks mom!). Since starting season 1 only a few weeks ago, I've officially gotten through 8 seasons (holding off on starting season 9 until after finals because the cliffhanger was just TOO good. those writers are GENIUS.) of the incredible crime fighting duo that is Detectives Benson and Stabler. I've always loved crime shows and police procedural dramas, but something about SVU is particularly appealing to me. SVU is one of very few successful crime shows that accurately depicts police procedure and our justice system. It's not always pretty and it's not always clear cut. That is especially true in the special victims unit where they deal with sensitive issues like rape and molestation. It's a running motif in the show that the SVU detectives are somewhat of pariahs within their professional community because they don't prefer their victims dead or because they choose to deal with heart breaking cases about dead children and mutilated sexual assault victims every day.
During the season when Benson was undercover with the FBI (read as: Mariska Hargitay on maternity leave), Stabler got a new partner who was a rookie to the SVU. In one episode in particular, Stabler and his new partner were talking about a rape victim and they had a disagreement. His female partner was essentially asserting that women need to be aware of their surroundings so they don't become victims of rape and Stabler, an 8 year veteran of the SVU, took that as "victim blaming." She argued that this was not true, and I don't exactly disagree with her. I say this because of the way rape education is taught in our society. While telling someone to be aware of their surroundings so that they don't get mugged is one thing, telling a woman to be aware of her behavior so she does not get raped is a different thing entirely. Rape education is always targeted at women and generally goes as follows:
"Don't walk home alone at night."
"Don't wear revealing clothes."
"Don't lead him on."
Rape education for men goes as follows:
Why don't we tell men anything about rape?! It infuriates me that we teach the potential victims of a crime how to avoid it, but we don't tell the potential perpetrators anything. Not to say that all men are rapists and that all women are just sitting around waiting to be raped, but I can't think of any other crime that is discussed in this way. We encourage children not to steal just as often as we encourage people not to waive their cash around on a busy New York City street. College campuses are unfortunately overrun with sexual assault, but universities often think that a power point presentation during orientation is a deterrent. There is SO much more we could teach about rape that we simply don't. Many sexual assaults on college campuses are fueled by alcohol. Rape education makes men seem like unbridled monsters with no degree of self control. Let's give them just a little more credit. Don't lead him on? That's ridiculous. While I think that women need to know their boundaries before they put themselves in a situation where signals may get crossed, that's NOT AN EXCUSE FOR A MAN TO RAPE HER. No one wants to be raped. If you wanted it, that pretty much disqualifies it from being rape.
As easy as it was to make that power point telling women to live their lives looking over their shoulder, you could add a slide that lists all the things that don't count as consent like alcohol, short skirts and one's previous sexual activity...or we could continue this rape "education" that results in low reporting of assault because the survivor thought she asked for it.