Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Date rape drug test to hit store shelves

Here is yet another product that puts the onus of responsibility for "date rape" (or just rape, if we're being honest) on the victim rather than the rapist. A new date rape drug test kit - which is already on sale in Quebec - will be available in pharmacies across Canada in the next few weeks. Women use the kit to test a drink they suspect may have been drugged by dropping a few drops of the drink onto a test sheet, which changes colour depending on whether the drink has been spiked and which commonly-used "date rape drug" is detected.

I have mixed feelings about this. First and foremost, if this product helps prevent women from being raped or assaulted - or worse - by alerting them to a spiked drink before they drink it, no one with a shred of humanity can argue with the fact that that is a good thing and the product has served its purpose.

However - and this is a big however -
the date rape test kit is a superficial fix to a deeply rooted societal problem; it is the equivalent of using a band aid to cover a bullet wound. It will contain some of the bleeding for a little while, but the real threat to safety is still there.

In order to prevent the crime from happening, we need to address the root causes, and those root causes do not involve women not being careful with their drinks in bars or at parties. They involve, among other things, a society that still largely sees women as property and something to gain control over; that encourages a primitive ideal of masculinity with no room for variance from the norm; where, for some reason, the idea of consent seems to be hazy and difficult to navigate (tip : the only thing that means "yes" is a clear, emphatic YES); and, last but not least, that does not punish rapists for their actions, and instead rationalizes and explains them away as somehow being the fault of the victim.

To be clear, I'm not saying society is solely to blame for rape. Rapists must also be held responsible for their actions, and that just isn't happening. But I think to effect real change we need to work more towards a societal shift, towards a mindset devoid of victim-blaming, rape apologist attitudes. We will never be able to get rid of rapists altogether, just as we will never be able to get rid of murderers or thieves altogether, but we can do away with the attitudes that allow rapists to continue raping women with little or no consequences.

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