The long & the shorts of it

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An Indiegogo campaign that seeks funding to develop anti-rape shorts has created a stir on social media.

These shorts could help women avoid sexual assault in certain circumstances, and women should feel empowered to wear them if they wish. However, it’s important to discuss the possible drawbacks of the product and explore how they fit into a wider analysis of sexual assault.

It’s not clear when a woman would wear these shorts. While our culture promotes the image of a rapist as a random attacker, most rapes are committed by someone that the victim knows. The premise that someone would wear the shorts all the time seems impractical. How many pairs would they have to own?

Some have suggested the shorts would be most effective if the victim was unconscious. However, the vast majority of sexual assault victims are conscious when they are attacked.

The group developing the shorts cites studies which show that “resistance increases the chance of avoiding a completed rape without making the victim more likely to be physically injured”. These are fairly tenuous grounds on which to promote the shorts, as the studies in question are based on cases that are wildly divergent from what’s at issue here: an unanticipated physical barrier.

The issue of accessibility is also important to consider, as the shorts themselves are expensive to produce. This is particularly disconcerting as they’re likely to be out of reach for those with lower incomes. Those who live places in the world where sexual assault is most prevalent would be the least likely to acquire this clothing item.

These shorts should be available to anyone who wants to use them, as feeling safe is a central consideration when dealing with sexual assault. However, physical barriers should only be a small subset of strategies in a much more comprehensive prevention plan.

— Journal Editorial Board

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