The Ministry of Defence (MOD)'s new campaign to end the culture of silence surrounding rape in the British services is encouraging for a number of reasons.
It’s wonderful, for instance, that sexual assault is finally being addressed by a highly traditional, establishment organisation – rather than being swept under the rug. And, considering how insensitive some anti-rape campaigns have been in the past (I’m looking at you, Sussex Police), the MOD campaign is immeasurably better. Having been jointly developed with Stonewall and Rape Crisis, it emphasises the responsibility of perpetrators and strongly focuses on consent as an active, rather than passive, process.
However, what we really need to do is start teaching the same lessons in our classrooms, and not just to our Armed Forces. Because even thought the MOD's campaign is a step in the right direction, we’re still here, talking about assault as though it’s a foregone conclusion. We still need to tell full-grown adults not to rape, and give people advice on what to do if they are raped – but when will we be able to live in a society that actually works to prevent it, and get rid of it for good?
Despite everything we know about the impact of rape culture on society, and the failings of our sex education, our schools still don’t teach consent. Our approach to rape prevention is entirely reactive. And while we dither and wring our hands, the number of reported rapes increases: 24,043 rapes took place in England and Wales in 2014, up 31 per cent from 2013). And these are just the reported cases; we have no idea of the true figure and we never will.
But what the stats we do have prove is that the anti-rape campaigns we've had so far have not been successful. So let’s change our approach. The MOD campaign is admirable, but we need to do so much more. As Maya Angelou once said: “When you know better, do better”. But please, it’s been a while now. Let’s start doing better already.Reuse content