An anti-rape device is one of a variety of devices invented for the purpose of preventing or deterring rape. The first such devices were the chastity belts of the 15th century. Although a number of devices have been proposed, none of them are in commercial production as of 2017[update].
Some of the most well-known anti-rape devices were proposed in South Africa, a country with a high incidence of rape and a low rate of successful convictions. South African activists argue that the legal system has not been effective in preventing or reducing rape and other violent acts against women.
Rape is, however, not only a third world issue but also affects developed countries. According to a 2001 World Health Organization study, 20% of women worldwide had been victims of rape or attempted rape at least once in their lives. According to figures from a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women in America are victims of sexual assault. More than 40% of these victims are our children, reporting they were first raped before they were 18 years old.
Types of devices
A number of concepts have been proposed for physical deterrents to rape, and although they attracted media attention, none of them have gone into production.
An early prototypical anti-rape female tampon was invented in late 2000 by Jaap Haumann, a South African man, for the purpose of preventing rape. Haumann's device was designed to resemble a tampon for ease of insertion, and consisted of a hard cylindrical plastic core containing a tensioned spring blade primed to slice when pressed against by the tip of a penis. Following activation, a portion of the tip of the penis would be removed, in effect performing a minor penectomy.
An anti-rape female condom using a different design was invented by Sonette Ehlers, a South African woman. Ehlers was motivated to create it while working as a blood technician with the South African Blood Transfusion Service, during which time she met many rape victims. Ehler mentioned that she was inspired to create RAPEX (later renamed to Rape-aXe) when a patient who had been raped stated, "If only I had teeth down there," suggesting the myth of the vagina dentata. Initially called RapeX, the name was changed in 2006 upon discovering that RAPEX is also an EU warning system against dangerous goods on the market.
The Rape-aXe is a latex sheath embedded with shafts of sharp, inward-facing barbs that would be worn by a woman in her vagina like a female condom. If an attacker were to attempt vaginal rape, his penis would enter the latex sheath and be snagged by the barbs, causing the attacker excruciating pain during withdrawal and giving the victim time to escape. The condom would remain attached to the attacker's body when he withdrew and could only be removed surgically, which would alert hospital staff and police. Like most condoms, Rape-aXe also usually prevents pregnancy and the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
Rape-aXe was unveiled on August 31, 2005 in South Africa. Although media coverage at the time implied that mass production was due to begin in April 2007, the device has never been marketed to the public and it remains unclear whether the product will ever be available for purchase.
A startup called DrinkSavvy has raised funds for a line of straws and glassware that will change color if a drink has been altered with a date rape drug, intending to release its first products in December 2013. The cups, glasses, and straws/stirrers served at bars and restaurants would look normal but they would immediately change color to warn people when someone slips a date rape drug into their drink. As of 2017[update], no product had been released.
It is like we are going back to the days where women were forced to wear chastity belts. It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices ... Women would have to wear this every minute of their lives on the off-chance that they would be raped.— Lisa Vetten (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, South Africa)
This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society.
Ehler responded to criticism in the FAQ section of her website: "As with everything in life there will be negative attitudes and I can't be responsible for people who refuse to educate men and feel the device is medieval," and responds by calling the Rape-aXe "a medieval device for a medieval deed".
"Sadly, many women have been killed over time, as nobody can guarantee the outcome of any rape. However, the huge plus-factor is that the discomfort and pain is such that the rapist would be disabled temporarily, giving you time to get away and get help."
Another critic of Dr. Ehlers' device states, "We do not question Dr. Ehlers' intentions in developing the technology. Clearly the Rape-aXe resulted from numerous years of service working with raped women, and out of a desire to help. However, when the technology is located, interpreted and implemented within a culture that simultaneously demonizes women as evil and responsibilizes them for recognizing their vulnerabilities and managing risk, then the effects and implications of the intervention change."
- "Rape in South Africa: why the system is failing women". The Conversation. February 18, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
- Langa-Mlambo, Lerato (July 22, 2012). "Violence Against Women In South Africa". Obstetrics & Gynaecology Forum 24.2. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- Fayard, Nicole (April 1, 2011). "Moi Quand On Dit Qu'une Femme Ment , Eh Bien, Elle Ment'1: The Administration Of Rape In Twenty-First Century France And England & Wales.". French Politics, Culture & Society 29.1. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- Wagner, Ann (March 2, 2016). "Congresswoman: Rape victims must finally get equal justice". CNN. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
- Steenkamp, Willem (2000-12-22). "'Killer tampon' to give rapists the chop". Independent Online. Archived from the original on February 23, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
- Dixon, Robyn (2005-09-02). "Controversy in South Africa over device to snare rapists". The Sydney Morning Herald/Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
- "It's time to fight back". Welcome to the official home of Rape-aXe. 2006. Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
- "Anti-rape condom unveiled". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2005-09-02. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
- Luscombe, Belinda (November 6, 2013). "Introducing Rape-Preventing Panties (With Locks)". TIME. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
- Clayton, Jonathan (2005-06-08). "Anti-rape device must be banned, say women". Times Online. London. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
- "S Africa 'rape trap' condemned". BBC News. 2005-06-10. Retrieved 2010-06-21.
- Neva Chonin (2005-06-12). "Vagina Dentata". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
- Rees, Gethin (October 17, 2012). "Vindictive but vulnerable: Paradoxical representations of women as demonstrated in internet discourse surrounding an anti-rape technology". Women's Studies International Forum 35. Retrieved March 10, 2016.