Don’t Be That Guy

Our last blog entry highlighted a controversial and highly publicized movement headed by women aimed at dismantling pervasive and gendered myths about sexual assault. It seems appropriate, therefore, to highlight how protective services, outreach organizations, and men are taking a leadership role in preventing sexual violence against women. Caught off-guard by 2009 police statistics indicating a 30% increase in sexual assault (half of which were alcohol-related), the Edmonton Police Services along with a coalition of community partners started the “Don’t Be That Guy Campaign.”

Working in conjunction with SAVE (Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton), the Edmonton Police Services created an innovative public education campaign. Rather than encouraging women to employ restrictive safety strategies to prevent victimization, the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign targets potential offenders. As SAVE points out:

“Research is telling us that targeting the behaviour of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to how much they blame themselves after the assault. That’s why our campaign is targeting potential offenders – they are he ones responsible for the assault and responsible for stopping it.”

The pilot-tested posters, which are posted in bars, campuses, washrooms, youth centres, etc., aim at grabbing the attention of young men ages 16-25. The images, which are intentionally graphic, carry an important and clear message that speaks to them in their own language:

 “Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy who doesn’t take responsibility. Don’t be that guy who doesn’t make sure his partner is consenting. Don’t be that guy who sexually assaults a young woman too drunk to consent to sex. Don’t be that guy who uses alcohol as a tool to sexually assault. Don’t be that guy who believes it is not rape.”

Working in conjunction local community providers and police departments in other major Canadian cities, Edmonton’s “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign has already spread to Vancouver and Ottawa.

The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign marks another important and necessary step toward dismantling victim-blaming ideologies, policies and practices. Not only does this campaign distinguish itself by focusing on holding perpetrators accountable, it also addresses and clarifies myths surrounding alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults. In doing so, it is creating a healthy public dialogue that challenges traditional and gendered assumptions of personal responsibility.  Finally, the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign provides an excellent example of how protective services, community service providers and organizations can work cooperatively to examine and prevent complex issues such as sexual assault.

For more information on the “Don’t Be That Guy Campaign” or to view the posters, visit http://www.sexualassaultvoices.com/our-campaign.html

by Nicola Temmel, summer student at SWOVA

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