How to Not Get Raped - femifesto
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How to Not Get Raped

How to Not Get Raped


In December 2013, Hollaback! Ottawa and its grassroots community partners, wrote an open letter to the women of Ottawa about a rash of reported sexual assaults by a “serial rapist”. The goal of the letter was to counteract archaic, ineffective and oppressive “safety tips” that place the onus on women to be safe, rather than acknowledging the systemic nature of sexual violence.

On July 14, 2014, there were two similar sexual assaults reported to the police in Ottawa. Unfortunately, the safety messaging coming from the police and the mainstream media continued to be directed at women.

These “safety tips” are unfortunately not unique to Ottawa. Versions of them are repeated in communities across the country on a daily basis.

This has inspired femifesto and collaborators to make our own tip sheet on how to avoid sexual assault.


femifesto: Sasha Elford, Shannon Giannitsopoulou, Farrah Khan

Collaborators: Rebecca Faria, Stephanie Guthrie, Julie Lalonde, Chanelle Gallant and Lisa Mederios
End #rapeculture & #victimblaming.

Safety Tips Released By the Ottawa Police:
“Ottawa Police have issued safety tips on their website to help females protect themselves:

  • Try not to walk alone at night but if you do, be alert and avoid dark or isolated areas.  Instead, walk out in the open, away from walls, doorways and pillars.
  • Whether you are walking or driving, determine the safest route before you leave.  Take the longest route if that is the safest.
  • Tell friends or family members where you’re going, and then let them know when you reach your destination.
  • Have your key ready as you approach your house or vehicle.
  • Don’t enter environments where you feel unsafe. Trust your instincts.
  • Know your physical capabilities and limitations.
  • Don’t carry offensive weapons such as knives. They may be used against you.

Ottawa Police say if you suspect you are being followed:

  • Cross the street or walk on the side of the road.
  • Go immediately to the nearest well-lit or populated area.
  • If others are within hearing distance, turn to the person following you and say in a loud and assertive voice: “Stop following me!”
  • Contact Police immediately—go to a house or a store and call the Police or flag down a taxi and ask the driver to call the Police for you.
  • If the person following you is driving a car, take out a pen and paper, look at the licence plate and write the number down, making sure that the driver sees you do this.

Ottawa Police say if you are attacked:

  • Try to remember the complexion, body build, height, weight, age, and type of clothing worn by the attacker. If possible, write down the information while it is still fresh in your memory.
  • If an attacker is after your purse or other valuables, don’t resist. If you have the opportunity, throw your purse away from you to the distance the attacker from you.”


Image transcript:

How To Not Get Raped: The smart way

  1. Start Young: Learn self defence but know that you are physically limited and cannot defend yourself. Learn not to talk to strangers before you learn to talk. Learn not to walk alone before you learn to walk. Especially learn how to be accountable for your rapist’s actions.
  2. Trust Your Instincts: Avoid all environments where you feel unsafe and where sexual assaults commonly take place: walls, doorways, pillars, streets, sidewalks, corridors, elevators, lobbies, parking lots, cars, public transit, cabs, parks, bars, restaurants, apartments, houses, offices, universities, colleges, nursing homes and government institutions.
  3. Always Conform: Don’t embrace the power and pleasures of your own desires. Don’t dress to impress – yourself. Don’t find yourself gorgeous and alive and wanting to share that. Don’t wear flirty skirts or revealing dresses. On the other hand do not be tomboyish. Avoid any expression that does not conform to gender norms as some people may use rape as a way to “discipline” you.
  4. Don’t Ask For It: If you live alone, install extra locks, buy a dog, and carry a small weapon. If you live with others, carry the dog and weapon around your home. Also, make sure you don’t carry the dog or weapon with you, as weapons could be used against you.
  5. Protect Yourself: If you live alone, install extra locks, buy a dog, and carry a small weapon. If you live with others, carry the dog and weapon around your home. Also, make sure you don’t carry the dog or weapon with you, as weapons could be used against you.
  6. Date Smart: Don’t go on dates alone, you could be attacked. Don’t go on dates in groups because then you could be attacked by a number of people. But don’t decline date offers either – insulting a potential suitor is just asking for trouble.
  7. If Attacked: Scream and struggle unless your attacker is the type who will kill you for fighting back. If you stay still for survival, make sure that they wouldn’t have let you go if you had resisted. Talk kindly to them, but don’t say anything that might sound bad in court. Protect yourself from injury, but make sure you get some bruises to count as evidence.
  8. Call the Police: Unless you face institutional barriers to accessing justice i.e. Aboriginal peoples, women of colour, persons with a disability, trans* people, queer folks, sex workers, Muslim women that wear the niqab, youth, low income individuals, homeless people, newcomer women, those with precarious status, Deaf people…you get the picture.
  9. Avoid Rapists: Most importantly stay away from those who commonly commit assaults; strangers, family members, friends, partners, spouses, co-workers, bosses, clients, teachers, doctors, teammates, and police officers. Be extra careful during peak times when rapes occur i.e. daytime, nighttime, dawn, afternoon, early evening, tea time, nap time. If you suspect you are being followed, go to a well lit area: unless you can’t because it’s dark outside – then set off a flare gun or light a torch. (Why are you outside when it’s dark anyway?)

Created by femifesto: Sasha Elford, Shannon Giannitsopolou, Farrah Khan, in collaboration with Rebecca Faria, Stephanie Guthrie, Julie Lalonde, Chanelle Gallant, and Lisa Mederios.

Inspired by the Ottawa Police:

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