Kudos to Emerson College for their exemplary Sexual Assault pamphlet!

I’ve barely been in school a week and I already have been having trouble finding time to blog. I forgot how much work this whole “school” thing would be – crazy, I know. Anyway, there is one thing I’ve been meaning to do and that is give Emerson College, my new alma matter, a pat on the back for their EXEMPLARY Sexual Assault pamphlet distributed during orientation.

I’m sure most of us are familiar with the usual women-focused, victim-blaming approach taken by most colleges and universities. The standard “ways to prevent rape” include: not leaving your drink unattended, not walking alone at night, not dressing provocatively, not drinking excessively, etc. These “prevention methods” are all directed at women, putting the onus of their own protection ON THEM, suggesting that if anything happens, it was their own fault for not being smart and following the rules.

The worst example of this kind of language is probably one published by Valdosta State. It includes some “tips” like these (actual language):

  • Women are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT, it may get you raped, or killed.
  • If he’s driving, find the right time, and stick your fingers in his eyes. He must watch the road, so choose an unsuspecting time, and gouge him. It maybe your ONLY defense. While he is in shock, GET OUT. (This sounds gross, but the alternative is your fault if you do not act.)
  • If you don’t have a cell phone, shame on you.

It’s “tips” like these that spurred Feminally to write the now famous list that turns victim-blaming on its head by giving “tips” to would-be rapists telling them not to drug people to control their behavior, etc: Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work! It may sound like a joke, but it draws serious attention to the fact that sexual assault prevention is usually directed towards the would-be victims and not the would-be rapists. But to my unexpected and pleasant surprise, at least one college was listening!

Behold: The exemplary Emerson College Sexual Assault pamphlet.

I knew we were already off to a good start by glancing at the cover, which reads: “Sexual Assault: Information for Men and Women.”

The first page is a letter to all Emerson students giving some stats about rape, and explaining what acquaintance/date rape is and that it is not tolerated at the college. The next page has this at the top:

RAPE IS A CRIME OF VIOLENCE: It is motivated by the desire to control and dominate, not by sexual desire.

Then there is a list of FACTS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT, which explain that acquaintance rape is rape, that men can also be victims of sexual assault, that it’s okay to say no without giving an explanation, and that “No one wants to be raped.”

It then gives some legal information, and some more detail about acquaintance rape. Then – oh then – the cream filling!

The following is quoted directly from the pamphlet:


Certain contributing factors repeatedly surface in acquantaince rape situations: ineffective communication, the use of drugs and alcohol, and sex role stereotypes. Understanding some of these factors can help prevent sexual assaults.

This pamphlet offers men and women ways to understand both their role in intimate relationships and the issue of sexual assault in a college environment. Mena dn women need to understand their right to be free from harm, and the legal consequences that may fall upon persons who compel sexual relations by force or threat of force.

If by force or threats, you compel a person to have sex against his or her will, even if you know the person and have had sex with him or her before you are committing a rape – even if you think he or she has been teasing and leading you on, even if you have heard that women say “no” but mean yes, even if you think it’s “manly” to use force to get your way.

Being turned down by sexual relations is not necessarily a rejection of you personally. A person who says “no” to sexual relations is expressing his or her unwillingness to participate in a specific act at a specific time.

Accept a person’s decision. “No” means no. Don’t read in other meanings. Don’t continue after the person says “no.”

Don’t assume that just because a person flirts or dresses in a manner you consider sexy that he or she wants to engage in sexual relations.

Don’t assume that previous permission for sexual relations means a person is under continuing obligation to have sex with you.

Don’t assume your date wants the same degree of intimacy you do.

Don’t assume that spending money on a date entitles you to sex.

Don’t force anyone either verbally or physically to have sex with you.

Don’t allow others to attempt forced sex with another person.

The pamphlet then follows with a list of things you can do to minimize the risk of being sexually assaulted that contain tips like “be assertive,” “trust your intuition,” “think ahead about how you will get home,” and “avoid excessive use of alcohol and drugs.” But the point is, they came SECOND, and that they don’t claim to be “ways to prevent sexual assault.” They are only things you can do to “minimize risk.” The first list is about “prevention.”

The pamphlet then goes on to give information about what you can do if you have been assaulted and includes a directory of resources, police departments, organizations, crisis hotlines, etc.

This pamphlet is a model of what sexual assault prevention should look like. I hope other colleges and universities will stand up and take note. Needless to say, I am proud to call myself an Emerson student.


  1. The only thing I wish they’d included was a note on how sex with someone who is legally unable to consent is still rape (eg. under the influence of drugs or alcohol, under-age, etc.).


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