"Just because she's drunk . . . doesn't mean she wants to . . . "
Canadian nurses create bold awareness campaign to prevent rape
August 29, 2012 -- Today an article by Sarah Deeth in the Peterborough Examiner (Ontario) reported that nurses at the local Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre had launched the "Don't Be That Guy" campaign to raise awareness among men about what constitutes rape, primarily to convey the message that having sex with a woman who is too drunk to consent is rape. The campaign targets not only potential rapists but also bystanders who may be in a position to step in to prevent assaults. The campaign's posters have unusually direct tag lines, among them "Just because you help her home . . . doesn't mean you can help yourself"; "Just because she isn't saying no . . . doesn't mean she's saying yes"; and the priceless "Just because she's drunk, doesn't mean she wants to f**k." The piece briefly explains the campaign, relying on strong quotes by Centre "sexual assault examination nurses" Karen Giles and Mary Waters. The Peterborough area seems to include a large number of university students, and Waters points to recent research about the special risks to first-year female university students and the belief among many young men that sex with a woman who is too drunk to consent is not rape. The campaign coincides with the start of classes at the universities, and the nurses plan to speak to students about sexual assault and drugs. The report might have done a better job explaining what the nurses do for patients clinically; it merely notes that they have recently "helped" several sexual assault victims. But on the whole, the piece is a great example of nurses taking the lead in aggressive public health advocacy and education on behalf of their patients. At the same time, it presents the nurses as autonomous experts in an important health context. We thank Sarah Deeth and the Peterborough Examiner.
The piece is headlined, "New campaign aims to raise awareness and reduce alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults." It starts simply with one of the campaign's tag lines, "Don't be 'that guy,'" and proceeds to describe "that guy" as "the one who puts the moves on girls who have had a little too much to drink, who slides in whenever she gets a little too tipsy." The report explains that the new "Don't Be That Guy" campaign focuses on "alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults" and in particular targets "potential perpetrators and bystanders," including men who might "stand up to their friends if they see someone about to cross the line." The piece notes that posters have been put up at the local Trent University and Fleming College as well as "in men's bathrooms in downtown bars." The posters "show a girl either stumbling out onto the street or passed out on the couch." The report also notes that the month-long campaign coincides with the start of classes at the local universities, where the two nurses "will be speaking to students, male and female... about the issues surrounding sexual assault and drugs." The photo also includes public education coordinator Karen Basciano.
The report provides detail and background through a number of good quotes from Giles and Waters. Underlining the urgency of the campaign, Waters says that the Centre "helped" three people who were sexually assaulted during their first week at school, noting that those "were just the ones that were reported." The nurses say they want the campaign to "generate a lot of dialogue," with Giles referring to the posters' "shock value" which presents the issue as "black and white" because she sees no grey area here: "There's no consent if she's drunk." The quotes from Waters focus on relevant research and the law:
Waters pointed to a recent statistic stating first-year female university and college students are at the highest risk for sexual assault during the first eight weeks of school. She also noted that a recent United Kingdom study involving men ages 18 to 25 revealed that 48% of men in that age group didn't consider it rape if the woman was too drunk to know what was going on. (our emphasis)
But the piece notes that it is a crime "to engage in a sexual act with someone if she, or he, is too intoxicated to consent." Waters stresses that in court that general principle may get "muddied" by "questions about the complainant's dress, her level of intoxication, even if she was flirting or not," which Waters argues "puts more blame on the victim than the perpetrator."Waters says such questions may lead to the belief that "it wasn't really rape." "But it is rape," she said.
The Examiner piece is not long, but it includes many very helpful elements for nursing. The sexual assault nurses come off as strong, articulate health leaders, responding to a public health problem with an engaging, timely, eye-catching campaign that includes both mass media (the posters and the coverage in media outlets like the Peterborough Examiner) and the in-person speaking engagements at the universities. That kind of campaign is a great example of patient advocacy and education, which are core nursing responsibilities, although most members of the public would likely be surprised to hear it. And Waters's comments are especially helpful. They show that nurses understand and apply scholarly research and that they practice holistically, knowing how the law affects their patients. We do note that rape is not limited to men assaulting women, and the piece might have included some recognition of that; one of the campaign's new posters (right) recognizes that men get raped, a fact that does not get enough press or public health attention. Also, although the piece mentions that the nurses have recently cared for sexual assault victims, we don't get any detail about their clinical work. Do they understand the law in part because they collect forensic evidence that is later used in prosecutions? Is that why the word "examination" is part of their titles? And "helped" is not the best word to convey the skills of college-educated professionals. Still, on the whole, the piece presents the nurses as skilled professionals operating autonomously at the clinic and in dealing with the wider public.
See the article "New campaign aims to raise awareness and reduce alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults," by Sarah Deeth, posted August 29, 2012 on the Peterborough Examiner website.
Please send messages of thanks to author Sarah Deeth for covering the work of nurses at email@example.com. Thank you!
Spread this campaign in your community! Do you live in a college town? Ask local bars if you can hang these posters above the urinals in each of their bathrooms. Go to the "Don't Be That Guy" campaign website created by SAVE--Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton and make a difference in your home town.