When you think “home,” visions of a comfortable, relaxing, safe space pop into your mind. Your favorite spaces, your favorite books, and your favorite people are there.
1 in 3 women has experienced or will experience sexual assault or violence in her lifetime. Much of that is perpetrated by what is known as an intimate partner – a husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend. In fact, the WHO reports that 30% of ever-partnered women have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV). In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have faced violence from a partner.
However, when asked to picture a rapist, most will picture a stranger attack. This leads to women and girls being told to walk in pairs or groups, to not go out at night, or to not talk to strangers. This is a dangerous myth.
Around the world, no place is less safe for a woman than her own home – Voice and Agency
The truth is that most assaults are by someone the victim knows and trusts. But many people don’t consider forced sex by a known person to be rape. The “enthusiastic consent” conversation being held on many US college campuses is trying to change the conversation, but it is limited in scope. Instead most of the response to gender-based violence is around support for victims and prevention of stranger assaults. For example, encouraging well-lit cities, telling women not to walk alone, and setting up victim services.
These are important interventions. But the onus of prevention should not be on the victim. The myth of stranger rape leads to women and men overlooking forced sex or abuse by an acquaintance or partner. Those who do report sexual assault by an acquaintance can be told that it’s not really a problem because they knew their
This builds into the discussion about consent that US colleges are having. It’s not enough to teach a small group of people about consent. Especially when their lives have already been impacted. Enthusiastic consent needs to be taught to everyone, everywhere starting at a young age. Teach your infants that they do not have to be held by someone if they don’t want. Teach your children that “stop” means “stop” and “no” means “no.”
If we teach consent to everyone, not just a few college students, then there will be no question if a woman or man tells their partner or friend “no.” This is not a solution to IPV. It won’t prevent people from beating their partner, killing their partner, or abusing their partner emotionally and financially. But it will increase awareness of what sexual assault is and hopefully make people think twice about forced sex by a partner or acquaintance. It will mean that the police or other authority take someone seriously when they report forced sex or assault. Teaching consent is a step in the right direction.