Success: Don't Be That Guy Campaign

This week, the Globe and Mail reported the first success of the Don't Be That Guy campaign in Vancouver. Faced with a rising sexual assault rate, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) introduced the program on July 8, 2011, and saw a rapid turnaround in statistics in just six months. The incidents of reported sexual assault fell by 10%. Vancouver is the campaign's first success story.

Originally developed in neighbourhing Alberta by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) under the Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE), the Don't Be That Guy campaign puts the blame on the perpetrator of sexual assault rather than on the victim. SAVE, a diverse coalition of individuals and groups from various professional backgrounds working for women’s safety, developed the posters to raise awareness about sexual assault, in particular, drug and alcohol-facilitated assaults. The three posters featured on this page are from the campaign.

According to EPS Police Superintendent Danielle Campbell, "A recent study out of the United Kingdom involving 18 to 25-year-old males revealed that 48 per cent of the males didn’t consider it rape if a woman is too drunk to know what was going on." Campbell added that "these statistics validate what we have here in Edmonton."

Since the program was introduced just 14 months ago in the Alberta capital, four other cities, including Vancouver, have adopted the program.

Faced with a rising number of rapes, particularly in the summer months, the VPD used the poster campaign to make it clear that sex without consent was sexual assault. In addition, the VPD, along with BarWatch, created training sessions for bartenders and wait-staff to help them identify potential victims who were temporarily vulnerable due to the consumption of drugs and alcohol. The VPD also assigned additional personnel to Vancouver's entertainment districts to specifically focus their attention on predatory males who might be targeting temporarily vulnerable women.

The success in Vancouver is welcoming news. However, yesterday it was reported that rapes in Edmonton had risen year over year. In 2010, there were 600 rapes reported, compared with 687 in 2011. According to Karen Smith of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, there are at least two reasons for this: victims are now less reluctant to report assaults and young people have greater access to drugs and alcohol. The spokesperson added that the number of reports on a weekend at the Centre is about 15, but when there's a rave or an all night dance party, the number can go as high as 40.

"When young people are under the influence of intoxicants, they seem to commit more sexual assaults," said Smith.

Although the number of reported cases of rape increased in Edmonton, change always involves a few steps forward and a few steps back. The Don't Be That Guy campaign is a positive step towards changing attitudes and placing the blame where it belongs--squarely on the shoulders of the sexual aggressor. Increased awareness is the first step in effecting change, and the EPS and SAVE should be applauded for their forward-thinking campaign. On Friday, I will be writing about how the Don't Be That Guy campaign came into being. Please stay tuned.

Related posts:

A Legal Definition of Consent
Sexual Assault: Victim Blaming
An "A" for Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign


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