(by Dawson McAllister)
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and so I want to join my voice in talking about this important topic. Did you know one in five college women will be sexually assaulted this year, and it’s not just females, one in 16 guys will be sexually assaulted while in college as well. In America, someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes. And 80% of those sexually assaulted are under 30-years-old. (National Sexual Violence Research Center) So we MUST be talking to teenagers and young adults about this. Let us not be naive and think it will never happen to someone we know. I wrote this blog for TheHopeLine.com to educate teens and young adults about the prevalence of sexual assault and to provide some practical tips everyone should be aware of in an effort to keep each other safe. It’s important you share these tips with the young people in your life. –Dawson
Let me be real clear from the beginning of this post…if someone has been sexually assaulted, IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. PERIOD. No matter what they did or did not do the choice was 100% the decision of the perpetrator. They could have chosen to not violate someone, but they did not make that choice, so it is THE PERPETRATOR’S fault and only theirs. Anyone who suggests differently does more harm than good.
Now with that said, I want to offer you some tips that can perhaps help protect you from being a victim of sexual assault, but I want you to understand that even if you follow all these steps or if you slip up on one of them, and you experience a sexual assault, it still is not your fault. These tips are simply meant to help make you more aware and lessen your chances.
15 Tips for Protecting Yourself from Sexual Assault
- Trust your instincts.If your gut is telling you that you should not be alone with someone, leave. If you feel the party you are at is getting a little too out of control, get out. If you are starting to get creeped out by how someone is looking at you or what they are saying to you, call a cab or find a friend.
- Be prepared. Before you go out make sure your phone is fully charged, carry some cash, and have the number of a cab company programmed in your phone. If in college, have the number for campus security.
- Don’t share too much on-line about what your plans are.61% of attackers are known by the victim.
At a Party
- Stick together with your friends or let them know where you are going. It does not hurt to have code words to alert a friend if you are getting uncomfortable.
- Be aware of your alcohol consumption. My first recommendation is don’t drink especiallyif you are under age. But if you are going to have a drink, know your limits. There is no disputing the fact that alcohol compromises your ability to make responsible decisions and be accurately aware of your situation. Over half of sexual assaults among college students involve alcohol.
- If you do have a drink, don’t let it out of your site. You never know when someone might slip something into your drink. If you leave it unattended, get a new drink. Never accept a drink from someone you don’t know.
- Be ready to speak up to help someone out. If a situation seems wrong, step up. Find others to support you and then offer some distraction to rescue a friend or peer from a questionable situation.
When Walking Alone
- Keep your eyes scanning – Stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings.
- Keep your ears listening – Don’t have earphones in
- Keep your feet moving – Walk with a purpose
- Choose a smart route – Try to stick to well-traveled areas even if it is not the most direct path
On a Date
- Tell a friend where you are going
- Don’t compromise your standards – Set your boundaries and be firm. “I don’t want to” isa good enough reason.
- Consent can be withdrawn – Understand that consent to sexual activity can be withdrawn at any time. You have a right to change your mind and put a stop to any sexual advances.
- If your date is making you uncomfortable – Call a friend and use a code word, or, if you can, make an excuse and leave.
Since 1993, sexual assaults have declined by 60%. So it is possible that by raising awareness and taking precautions, we can keep lowering the number of incidents.
If you are a survivor of a sexual assault, please take care of yourself and know that there is help for you.