In a recent Gauntlet article, CASE spoke out about a new security device that developers want to introduce on campus, the Securelet. The Securelet is a bracelet that functions as a personal alarm in case of emergency, with one button that emits a high-pitched alarm sound, and another button that contacts Campus Security.
“Any kind of personal safety device puts the responsibility on the potential victim rather than the potential perpetrator and that’s not something we endorse at all,” Jahelka said. “Lots of victim blaming can happen because of typical prevention methods.”
CASE focuses on re-thinking prevention methods when it comes to sexual assault. While this article points out one reason as to why the Securelet is problematic there are several other reasons we would like to highlight.
First, the Securelet bracelet plays into the common misconception of “stranger danger” where sexual assaults happen when someone is attacked late at night. Statistically, this actually is one of the rarest kinds of sexual assault, though it is overrepresented in the media as commonplace. The fact is, sexual assault is most often committed by someone the victim knows - either a coworker, acquaintance, friend, partner or family member. These cases are referred to as “acquaintance sexual assault.” While the Securelet may provide a feeling of comfort when walking around campus, it does not address the root cause of sexual assault and thus has little chance of actually eradicating it.
Second, promoting personal alarms as a sexual assault prevention strategy puts responsibility on victims to prevent their own assault. Society already tells women to watch what they wear, how much they drink, and where they walk in order to prevent assault. Women have also been told to wear rape whistles and personal alarms for decades. This concept is nothing new and hasn’t lead to the change we need to see on Canadian campuses or our culture in general. It also can easily lead to victim-blaming, where victims are made to feel responsible for their own victimization because they did not take the proper precautions. This is the kind of thinking we are trying to change, because sexual assault and harassment only happens when someone makes a choice to do so.
Third, creating a sexual assault prevention device to place on the market as a purchasable product creates an issue of commodification. While it has not been clearly stated how students will be accessing the device, the Securelet has been identified as a product that could be made into a business. It is problematic to consider sexual assault prevention as a concept that comes with a price. By extension, it creates an issue of accessibility, especially for a low-income demographic such as students. All other reasons aside, if the Securelet were implemented on our campus, we would hope that it would be a service rather than a business, and that it would be accessible to all students, not only to those that could afford it.**
CASE believes that prevention methods need to focus on holding potential perpetrators accountable rather than putting that responsibility on potential victims. We are doing something new and different, addressing the root causes of sexual assault instead of outdated victim-blaming approaches. That is why we partnered with the Women’s Resource Centre to write a Quality Money proposal for a three-year education-based sexual assault prevention program called Creating a Culture of Consent, which aims to educate students about healthy relationships on campus. This project was approved by the Students’ Union in March and will kick off in Fall 2015. We are excited to see this project move forward, engaging students in important conversations, supporting survivors and promoting respect for others on campus. We believe programs like this will create the change we need to see on campus instead of the tired approach of telling students to wear personal alarms.
*Edited May 20, 2015 for clarification.
**Edited May 20, 2015 for additional explanation.