Canadian Ads Shift Blame to the Real Perps: Rapists

It’s a basic legal principle in Canada and the U.S.: Women who are severely intoxicated are not capable of giving consent, and taking advantage of their mostly-or-completely-unconscious state is rape. And yet, both grim statistics and all-too-frequent rape-apologist statements show that many still do not understand that an unconscious woman was not “asking for it.”

Last Friday, a coalition of anti-sexual assault groups called SAVE (Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton), in Edmonton, Canada, launched a campaign to shift the blame. The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is directed at men between the ages of 18-24–in other words, the people most likely to commit the crime of rape.

The language in the advertisements explicitly counters the attitude that the victim is to blame. One reads,

“Just because you help her home … doesn’t mean you get to help yourself”

And another,

“Just because she isn’t saying no … doesn’t mean she’s saying yes.”

The bluntest ad, which will be posted in men’s bathrooms in 26 bars across Edmonton, says,

“Just because she’s drunk doesn’t mean she wants to fuck.”

These ads were chosen by a focus group for most clearly getting across the message to men that “sex with a woman who does not give consent is rape.” According to Karen Smith from the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (one of the groups in the coalition), most campaigns to stop sexual assault are directed at women, not men, which in a way makes them complicit in continuing the victim-blaming ideology. She says,

This innovative SAVE committee believes that, as long as society directs prevention strategies at women, we all stop looking at what the real problem is—the perpetrators.

And for the perpetrators who choose to ignore the campaign’s warnings, Edmonton Police Superintendent Danielle Campbell has a message,

For those of you who choose to be That Guy, that opportunistic offender, know this—the Edmonton Police Service has the subject-matter experts to investigate these matters and we will hold you accountable for the crime you commit.

Photo from Flickr user Edwin Land under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Not Guilty says:

    It's a little surprising that this coming out of Canada's bastion of conservatism. I hope it's picked up across the country ASAP

    • Edmonton is hardly "Canada's bastion of conservatism"… there's a reason that a lot of folks from Calgary call it "Redmonton"… and it's (happily) the home of the only NDP riding in Alberta! 😉

  2. DefeatedandGifted says:

    Right On! It's time we actively disputed these pernicious myths that there are signifiers — being drunk, how we dress — that mean "I consent."

  3. Leave it to the Canadians to dream up a campaign so totally sensible….and wonderful!

  4. Thank you thank you thank you for shedding light on this all too common form of aquaintance rape. For me it was my husband-now ex-husband and for years I harbored the belief that because I had passed out ergo I had too much to drink, I somehow was "asking for it". Took years for me to understand that the stupid choice to drink too much did not take away my right to be free from sexual assault.

  5. So, any idea when the REST OF THE GORRAM WORLD will get the hint?

  6. marisasano says:

    Well, Edmonton's not ALL conservative.

  7. Anytime there is a rape on a college campus, I put up signs warning the perpetrator that we are all looking for him, he will be caught, and he will be severely punished. It puts the campus on alert, making everyone more confident and reminds them to look out for someone doing wrong. It takes the responsibility off women to walk around timid, rather, it's the perp who needs to be quaking in his boots.

  8. Far North Feminist says:

    The Women's Center at my university was forced to remove a sign from their bulletin board that said "Men must take responsibility for ending rape." Seems that someone was "offended" by the implication that rape prevention starts with men, not with victims.

  9. The campaign should be about drinking responsibly for both genders.

    Victim-blaming is never great, but completely eliminating responsibility on a party doesn't help either. As much as you must have a motivated offender, you must have a suitable target. If the common theme with this campaign is severely intoxicated women, it's being irresponsible and naive to not be encouraging woman to avoid getting hammered. Especially when women can get drunk easier than men due to differences in metabolism.

    When you also consider the number of rape victims who are raped multiple times over their life, there also needs to be a focus on mental health, as women who repeatedly put themselves in these vulnerable situations likely have a history of child abuse.

    • Women are raped whether they drink responsibly or not. The point is to stop opportunistic rapists.

    • imnothin says:

      Put themselves in a vulnerable situation? Really?

      1) Since society is the way it is, simply BEING female puts one in a vulnerable situation. Rape can happen any time, anywhere, to any female, and does. Any female can be a suitable target for a rapist. Drunk or not. Out late or not. Alone or not. Dressed sexy or not. Being friendly or not.

      2) Females should NOT HAVE TO BE hyper vigilante, always trying to make sure they are not “making themselves vulnerable” to some guy with entitlement issues who will take what he wants if he thinks he can, regardless of whatever she is doing or not. How to not be vulnerable? Wear suits of armor? Even when sleeping?

      3) Repeat victims aren’t necessarily making themselves more vulnerable. They ARE often more vulnerable BECAUSE of what has happened to them. It can affect subtle behavioral cues, which some men who rape seem to pick up on.

      It is not about HER, it is about HIM. She is not responsible for his actions, he is. Period. Teach HIM to behave, to be a decent human being, to treat females as human beings, not things-to-be-used-for-his-enjoyment. Teach HIM not to exploit vulnerabilities in other humans, just because he can, or for personal gain or enjoyment of some (sick) type. That is the point here.

      • gbsgirl says:

        imnothin – you are really somethin’! I couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote and the way in which you wrote it. Perfectly stated. Men should be made to memorize your post.

  10. Great article and campaign. I wish my college would have had something like this. I was wondering if anyone knew of any good resources for moving on from acquaintance rape. I was raped by a “friend” of mine, and though I had spoken to him about where I drew the line sexually on numerous occasions, he still took advantage of me when I was drunk. I struggled so much with applying a label to what had happened because I had been drinking. I had a very strong emotional reaction to the event but was unable to refer to it as rape. After a year, I “buried” it. Though I managed to convince myself that I had dealt with it, the feelings of being dirty and self-loathing never ceased. Recently, I have not been able to fool myself anymore. In some ways, I feel like I am back at square one. I am trying to deal with this so I can move on with my life, but it’s difficult to know how to do so. If there are any resources that anyone knows of that provide beneficial, constructive ways to deal with the emotions that come along with this, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

    • Seeking help from my local rape crisis center kept me alive. I hope someone is helping you. It is rape and it s not your fault . Most rapes are committed by someone you know. You knew it was rape when it happened. Now you need to tell someone that can help you. It can all be private if you choose. I chose to report to the police after I received some council. I don t know if it will protect another woman or not I just know I have to try.

  11. Belle of Acadie says:

    I love this campaign. Heard about in on the news.

    Stepping Stone also has some edgy ads for sex workers.

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