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


Kathleen Richter is a recent graduate of the University of California, San Diego in the field of International Studies. She has been a feminist ever since kindergarten when she proved that she too could belch with the best of them. When she is not engaged in life-sustaining activities, she is most likely either drawing feminist comics or writing feminist sentences.