Line In The Sand…Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Sexual Assault

April 30, 2010

Avoiding Dangerous Situations

While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
  • Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
  • Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
  • Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.  Always have one arm/free.
  • Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
  • Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.

If Someone is Pressuring You

If someone is pressuring you to engage in sexual activity, it is important to remember that being in this situation is not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong, it is the person who is making you uncomfortable who is to blame. But if you need to get out of an uncomfortable or scary situation here are some things that you can try:

  • Trust your instincts. Don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to. “I don’t want to” is always a good enough reason.
  • Be true to yourself. Do what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
  • Have a code word with your friends or family so that if you don’t feel comfortable you can call them and communicate your discomfort without the person you are with knowing. Your friends or family can then come to get you or make up an excuse for you to leave.
  • Lie. If you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings it is better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Some excuses you could use are: needing to take care of a friend or family member, not feeling well, having somewhere else that you need to be, etc.
  • Try to think of an escape route. How would you try to get out of the room? Where are the doors? Windows? Are there people around who might be able to help you? Is there an emergency phone nearby?
  • If you and/or the other person have been drinking, you can say that you would rather wait until you both have your full judgment.

In a Social Situation

While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted in social situations.

  • When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other and leave together.
  • Practice safe drinking. Try not to leave any beverages unattended or accept drinks from someone you don’t know or trust.
  • Have a buddy system. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about your or your friend’s safety.
  • If someone you don’t know or trust asks you to go somewhere alone, let him or her know that you would rather stay with the group.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way out of a bad situation.

What Can Men Do?

While individuals of both genders are perpetrators of sexual assault, the majority of those who commit sexual assaults are men. Even so, it is important to remember that the vast majority of men are not rapists.

There are many things men (and women) can do to help prevent sexual violence.

If you see someone in danger of being assaulted:

* Step in and offer assistance. Ask if the person needs help. NOTE: Before stepping in, make sure to evaluate the risk. If it means putting yourself in danger, call 911 instead.

* Don’t leave. If you remain at the scene and are a witness, the perpetrator is less likely to do anything.

* If you know the perpetrator, tell him or her that you do not approve of what s/he is doing. Ask him or her to leave the potential victim alone.

Be an ally:

* When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other frequently and leave together.

* Have a buddy system. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if you are worried about her/his safety.

* If you see someone who is intoxicated, offer to call him or her a cab.

If someone you know has been assaulted:

* Listen. Be there. Don’t be judgmental.

* Be patient. Remember, it will take your friend some time to deal with the crime.

* Help to empower your friend or family member. Sexual assault is a crime that takes away an individual’s power, it is important not to compound this experience by putting pressure on your friend or family member to do things that he or she is not ready to do yet.

* Encourage your friend to report the rape to law enforcement (call 911 in most areas). If your friend has questions about the criminal justice process, talking with someone on the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE can help.

* Let your friend know that professional help is available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.

* If your friend is willing to seek medical attention or report the assault, offer to accompany them wherever they need to go (hospital, police station, campus security, etc.)

* Encourage him or her to contact one of the hotlines, but realize that only your friend can make the decision to get help.

Changing the culture:

There are certain things in our culture that make sexual assault more possible. By speaking out and educating ourselves and others, we can help to decrease the number of sexual assaults.

* Become knowledgeable about the issue and share your knowledge with others.

* Volunteer for RAINN or your local rape crisis center and help educate your community about preventing sexual violence.

RAINN

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