Can anti-rape knickers really have an impact in reducing sexual assault statistics?

Could anti-rape underwear help reduce sexual assault statistics? [Photo: Getty]

Every year approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales. That’s roughly 11 rapes every single hour, according to the charity Rape Crisis. Pretty sobering statistics right? It’s clear something needs to be done to tackle these appallingly high figures of sexual violence. The trouble is people can’t agree on the way to go.

Do we need more emphasis on education surrounding the concept of consent? More encouragement of victims to report the crimes that have been committed against them (recent statistics suggest only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report it to the police)? Or do we instead concentrate on the whole prevention of rape in the first place?

Well, step forward Safe Shorts, the German company who has created a pair of anti-rape knickers. Yep, you read that right – pants designed to stop you getting attacked. The £87 underwear comes complete with a combination lock and a 130-decibel alarm that will go off if the garments are torn or cut.

“There is no 100% security against sexual assault and rape while you enjoy the full freedom of action,” the website states. “SAFE SHORTS is one step in the right direction.”

The concept, in theory, may seem sensible to some. A product that could help to keep women safe, like a rape alarm. Where’s the harm? But though the motives of the underwear may be laced with good intentions, the makers have overlooked a few key considerations…

Safe Shorts have been designed to help prevent women getting attacked [Photo: Safe Shorts]

It emphasises that victims should try to ‘avoid’ being raped

The very existence of anti-rape underwear could induce an element of shame for victims who may feel they ‘failed’ to protect themselves by not purchasing the attack-preventing products in the first place. Should it really be up to us to take responsibility for ‘avoiding’ rape? Should the focus not shift instead to encouraging attackers to ‘avoid’ attacking?

Not everyone is attacked by a stranger

Yes, some rapes are committed by the stereotypical shadow-lurking stranger, waiting to pounce on a woman walking home late at night or in a darkened alley, but according to recent statistics from Rape Crisis approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.

Chances are that many of those who are raped or attacked by friends, family members or their own partner wouldn’t suspect that people they like, love or trust would ever be violent. Are the makers suggesting that women wear the underwear at all times, you know, just in case?

It isn’t just women who are raped

While it’s not clear whether the products are solely available for women, there is a strong emphasis on helping women stay sexual assault-safe. But what about everyone else? Potential victims come in many different guises and sexual violence doesn’t discriminate. Men get raped, see statistic in the opening sentence. Disabled people get raped. Transgender people get raped.

Sexual assault comes in many different guises

But the makers of this particular product are purely focused on the type that involves removing a person’s shorts or underwear.

There are many other forms of sexual assault that these types of products don’t even begin to protect against.

Safe Shorts aren’t the only underwear designed to prevent sexual assault [Photo: AR Wear]

Safe Shorts aren’t the only ones to bring the concept of anti-rape products to the market. Back in 2013 AR Wear (AR stands for Anti-Rape) introduced a set of shorts, trousers, and underwear which are difficult to tear and remove, thus supposedly acting as a barrier for potential attackers.

Makers claimed their products would deter an attacker and “give women and girls additional power to control what happens to their bodies in case they are assaulted.”

But unlike, the new Safe Shorts, the two female designers behind the concept also acknowledged that their products could not form part of the long-time solution to tackling sexual assault rates. “As long as sexual predators continue to populate our world, AR Wear would like to provide products to women and girls that will offer better protection against some attempted rapes while the work of changing society’s rape culture moves forward,” their website stated.

They’re right, because while the makers behind the idea of anti-rape underwear and products should be applauded for trying to help people, we’ll never truly make progress on reducing those scary statistics until the emphasis switches to educating people about consent, properly enforcing laws and challenging the rape culture that arguably fuels sexual assault in the first place.

What do you think of the concept of anti-rape underwear? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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