I’ve previously talked about how “gun free zones” just lead to situations where victims are defenseless, since homicidal (and often suicidal) criminals don’t care about a law that says they can’t have a gun, or the consequences of their crime spree. Indeed, this has been the case in every school shooting in the US. There is even a humorous video clip that makes fun of the fact that criminals won’t stop committing their crime upon learning that they are in a gun free zone. It is against this backdrop that I find myself compelled to criticize the “Rape Free Zone” project – not for its quite commendable goal of preventing rape, but due to the ineffective means through which the goal is pursued.
Background on the Rape Free Zone Project
The goal of the rape free zone project “is to prevent men’s violence against women on and around University and College Campuses.” They define a Rape Free Zone (RFZ) to be “an area such as a campus, communuty [sic], city, state, country, et cetera which views rape as a pathetic and despicable act committed by severly [sic] troubled men who have deep rooted insecurities about either their sexuality or sexual prowess or both. Consequently, RFZs promote anti-sexism and anti-violence. Sexual violence is never tolerated and penalities [sic] are severe. RFZs also reflect gender equality in all levels of its government. Women serve in every level of executive administration and government.”
As someone who sometimes writes about the horrors of rape on this blog, I find myself whole heartedly in agreement with the noble goal of preventing rape and other violence against women. I similarly agree with their characterization of rapists as pathetic and insecure criminals. However it is the particular plan to stop rape that I am critical of, as discussed below.
The Rape Free Zone Project’s Flawed Implementation of their Plan
It is in implementation, as is all too often the case, where the Rape Free Zone project fails. They say that “Implementing an RFZ begins with a very visible public declaration. However, making an RFZ work entails more than a public declaration against rape but a sustained and significant strategy made by the RFZ to address the pandemic of men’s violence against women. University and College RFZs must set new standards for security; policies and protocol on sex-assault adjudication; violence prevention education for students, athletes, staff and coaches, and adequate staffing to ensure the safety and well-being for Hawaii’s communities in the coming generations.”
1. First, I don’t see a public declaration that rape is not acceptable as really doing much to prevent that crime from being committed. Laws against rape have been in existence for quite a long time, and virtually every member of society knows that rape is an immoral and illegal act for which they will be punished if convicted. Sexual education classes, diversity training, and a whole host of other programs in schools and places of business also make clear that rape is wrong and unacceptable. Publicly declaring that rape is unacceptable sounds like publicly declaring murder to be unacceptable, as neither declaration tells would-be criminals anything they don’t already know.
2. Next, I sincerely doubt that rapists care what their victims or the community thinks about their crime. That is why having sex offender registries which publicly humiliate rapists haven’t put an end to rapes. That is also why studies show that fighting back against a rapist, rather than screaming at them or crying, is the best thing that a woman can do if attacked. Indeed, the motivations for rape are believed to be related to power, control, and a sadistic desire to harm the victim, meaning that the victim’s disapproval likely is of no consequence to the rapist, or might even please the rapist and encourage them to continue.
3. Moving on to the statement that rape free zones should have adequate staffing and security, I don’t really see this helping all that much (although I don’t object to additional staffing/security). First, security and other people potentially in a position to stop a rape simply can’t be everywhere at once, even if security staff were to be doubled. Secondly, security staff are seldom inside a university dorm room or private apartment, where “date rape” often occurs. The same is true for rapes where the rapist breaks into a private residence, where security personnel would not be welcome to patrol anyway. These reasons, among others, are why very few rapes are ever stopped by a 3rd party coming to the save the victim.
4. The Rape Free Zone definition also talked about severe penalties for rapists. While I agree that rapists should be punished severely for their crime, and kept in jail for a long time so that they are unable to harm another victim, I don’t think that severe penalties serve as much of a deterrent against rape. Like many violent crimes, rape is usually committed by a person who is not thinking rationally, and I sincerely doubt that even the doubling of the prison sentence for rape would deter such people. Criminals also often believe themselves to be “lucky” or immune from capture, making the sentence for a conviction even less of a deterrent.
My Suggestion for Implementing an Effective “Rape Free Zone”
First, I’ll say that it is impossible to truly make an area “rape free” for the simple reason that crime is an unfortunate part of life that cannot be completely eliminated. We should, of course, endeavor to fight crime, but it would be naive to think that it could be completely eradicated from society. With that caveat out of the way, here is my humble suggestion:
Arm women for self defense. Women who are armed have stopped rapists, stalkers, home invaders, and other violent attackers time and time again. On the other hand, women who have no gun are often raped and beaten to death by a physically stronger attacker. The fact is that most women are not as physically strong as most men, meaning that an unarmed woman will seldom be able to save herself from even an unarmed attackers. When the criminal has a gun, the woman tends to be even worse off.
Note: Another somewhat minor disagreement that I have with the Rape Free Zone project is its name. By having a zone where rape is prohibited, it would seem that logically, there is then a “rape zone” where rape is permitted. Obviously that is not what the Rape Free Zone project founders had in mind, nor does the law recognize such a clearly ridiculous and terrible idea. However, as a matter of semantics, I thing that it is unwise to call a particular area rape free. Instead, rape and other violent crimes should be fought in every area by individuals who are armed for self defense and refuse to be victims.
My thanks to Anders for pointing out the Rape Free Zone website.
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