Don’t Get Raped: Wear Running Shoes

It’s not that this ‘health and safety’ advice from Wellington’s Massey University isn’t sensible, it’s just that it is absolutely insane that we live in a world where the solution to rape is female university students being advised to carry a whistle and wear running shoes.

University spokesman James Gardiner said … “If students don’t wish to carry whistles or wear running shoes, that’s up to them, but that’s just the advice from our health and safety people.”

The full list of advice, according to the newspaper article:

Massey’s tips:

Walk with others if you can

Keep to well-lit areas

Be aware of your surroundings (headphones playing music can distract you)

Walk confidently, be observant

Report suspicious behaviour to campus security.

Report crimes, including threats, to police

Tell someone where you are working, what time you will be home

Carry a whistle and a torch

Have your car keys or house keys ready in your hand

If someone is following you, go to a place where there are people

Wear comfortable shoes, eg: running shoes

Does this sound like a world we want to live in?

Again, no one’s saying it isn’t a ‘safe’ way to live, but might it not be better to address some deeper issues, like – just off the top of my head – men’s violence in our culture, poverty and crime, misogyny, rape culture, parenting skills and raising kids who know how to handle their anger and emotions… Or maybe we should all just get whistles and running shoes.


What really causes rape? |

And if you think that carrying a whistle, or following all the rest of the ‘health and safety’ advice, will stop you being raped, remember this profound post from bluemilk:

Don’t go out and get drunk, it could lead to you getting raped. Also, don’t have sex with someone because it could get you raped by someone they know. Don’t be young, that could definitely get you raped. While we’re at it, especially don’t be a child, that could really get you raped. Don’t be older either, that can get you raped. Don’t be living in a nursing home; women get raped there. In fact, what are you even doing in an establishment like that, are you asking for it?

[Read more at bluemilk – actually, read everything she’s written there, ok?]

I know that the university is just trying to do the best it can, and it can’t change rape culture in Wellington overnight, so perhaps it’s just best to talk about whistles and running shoes.

I think what I’d appreciate is whenever anyone – especially the police – give out rape safety advice aimed at potential victims, that they include an explicit acknowledgement that the causes of rape are nothing to do with whistles or shoes. That would go some way to changing the way people think about rape and violence and victim-blaming.

What do you think?

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25 comments on “Don’t Get Raped: Wear Running Shoes”

  1. not a wild hera Reply

    One last, tired thought before bed.

    How about, instead of saying ‘Women! Be careful of rapists!’ the public safety announcement said something like ‘If you are the rapist, you need help. Here is a number to call.’?

    And/or ‘We are looking for you because this violence is unacceptable and all people have the right not to be afraid.’?

    What would you write for the police communications department?

  2. Marie Reply

    I saw a post on word press by two university professors a few weeks ago about how parents should talk to their kids about sexual assault instead of what to bring to campus before sending them off to college…. all it talked about was how to avoid being raped and sexually assaulted. I agree you should take precautions and stuff, but it shouldn’t all be about victim blaming — the guys need to take responsibility too! Not anywhere in the post did it talk about teaching their sons to respect the women or to teach their sons about no means no or anything like that. It simply talked about how the girls needed to dress appropriately, not drink alcohol without a friend being around and them being sober to watch them, carrying pepper spray etc. And to make sure they fought back if they were attacked. I was so upset because it was all basically the whole rape culture crap! I just cant believe universities are still saying all this. Its horrible

  3. AndyM Reply

    and in a similar vein, 100% of the burglaries are caused by burglars. Telling people to lock their doors and not leave their valuables on display isn’t dealing with the root cause.
    Surely this is a case of both/and. Rapists are responsible for rape. It is possible to reduce your risk.

    • not a wild hera Reply

      I take your point, Andy, but I think the analogy breaks down when you consider the emotional damage caused by the very common practice of victim blaming when it comes to sexual violence, and the widespread acceptance of many kinds of sexual violence and disrespect of women that goes on in our culture – and doesn’t apply to burglars.

      • AndyM Reply

        people don’t tend to get criticised when they recommend that people lock their doors to prevent burglars, but the impression is that any recommendations that women take any measures to reduce their vulnerability to rape is to endorse sexual violence or to belittle the horror of it.

        you don’t hear home owners walking the streets demanding the right to leave their front doors open and for them to remain unburgled.

        • not a wild hera Reply

          And my main point is that the ‘both/and’ you speak of is absent in most discussion of rape safety. We have a lot of evening up to do to get the balance. Imagine if everyone started talking about the rapists’ responsibility MORE than restricting women’s behaviour?

          • AndyM

            talking about the rapists responsibility would take the shape of how they were to be punished for their crimes. you’d find few who’d object to them spending far longer behind bars and away from wider society.

            Having set severely hard criminal punishment and enforced it, how does society do more in terms of acknowledging the responsibility of the rapist?

            Lobbying for abstinence before marriage, fidelity within marriage, and treating your spouse as christ treats the church would be how christians would use their worldview to eliminate rape, but I think I’ve got a better chance of riding a unicorn to work tomorrow than this happening anytime soon.

            homeowners would be naive if they believed that in our current society they could expect to leave doors unlocked and be unburgled.

          • Anna S

            An offender taking responsibility for his actions and their consequences (after the event) is definitely one aspect of responsibility. But I’d have thought there’s more to it than that – particularly where it comes to prevention.

            How about men taking responsibility for learning to control their anger, so that some of these issues aren’t just passed from generation to generation?

            How about families and friends taking responsibility for how alcohol use/abuse is normalised in our culture? I’m no expert, but I’d guess that alcohol can make things worse for men as well as women in rape situations.

            How about communities taking responsibility for how we care for those with mental illness? I realise that mental illness is only a factor in some offending, not all.

            Hmmm, and while I’m thinking about it … How about those of us who long for God’s Kingdom to come, taking seriously our responsibility to care for “the least of these”? And by “least” I include those who, for whatever reason, have trouble with anger, addiction, family violence, mental illness, self control …

        • Alex Reply

          Andy, I think another point your analogy misses is the fact that – actually – taking these measures isn’t going to stop a whole lot of rapes, whereas locking doors probably does stop a fair few burglaries. Did you take the time to read the Blue Milk post Thalia linked to in her piece? Wearing running shoes and carrying a whistle isn’t going to be of much use in many, if any, of those scenarios. It cannot be said loudly enough or clearly enough that the only thing that will stop rapes happening is for rapists not to rape. And yet, sadly, in the majority of instances all we hear is “what was *she* wearing?” “what was *she* doing there?” It is sickening and shocking that so much of the emphasis should still be on women “correcting” their behaviour…

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