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Risk Reduction

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Sexual violence can happen to anyone and it is NEVER the victim’s fault.

Did you know...

  • Alcohol is a factor in almost all sexual assaults on college campuses.

  • Many perpetrators of sexual assault are someone the victim knows.

  • Sexual violence can happen in many different contexts, including on a date or at a party.

Proactive Strategies to Minimize Risk

Challenge the Attitudes That Make Sexual Violence Acceptable

  • Resist sexist attitudes. Attitudes which suggest that one gender exists solely for the pleasure of another, or that one gender’s role is to improve the quality of another’s life become part of a rapist’s justification.

  • Don’t make or laugh at degrading jokes. Individuals who make abusive comments or use sexist language to describe others contribute to the conditions that make violence so widespread. Voice your opposition to such language. Chances are you aren't the only one who doesn't find it funny.

    • A good technique to use if you hear something like this is to simply say, "I don't get the joke. Can you explain to me why it's funny?"

  • Challenge abusive behavior when you see it. Everyone responds to social pressure from their peers. Actively resisting abusive behavior through one-to-one confrontation, policy-making in your community, and public activism are all appropriate courses of action for people committed to stopping sexual violence.

Examine Your Own Sexual Behavior and Responsibility

  • Your sexual desires may be beyond your control, but your actions are within your control. Sexual excitement does not justify sexual assault.

  • It is never acceptable to force sex with your partner. Even if:

    • Your partner says “no”, and you think they mean “yes”.

    • Your partner said "yes" but then changed their mind.

    • You have had sex with your partner before.

    • You’ve paid for dinner or given your partner expensive gifts.

    • You think people enjoy being forced to have sex or need to be persuaded.

    • Your partner is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

    • Your partner “teases” you, dresses “provocatively” or “leads you on”.

  • If you are uncertain of your partner’s actions, speak up. Clarify what your partner wants. If you find yourself in a situation with a person who is unsure about having sex or is saying “no,” back off. Suggest talking about it. But if someone is hesitating, STOP.

  • Allow your partner to make their own decisions. If your partner is unsure about whether they want sex, using emotional coercion or “guilt-tripping” is a form of sexual violence.

  • Respect other people's boundaries. If someone tells you that a behavior of yours makes them uncomfortable, STOP. If someone tells you no, STOP.

  • Do not make assumptions. Your partner may welcome some forms of sexual contact and be opposed to others. Don’t assume that one form of sexual contact necessarily opens the door to any other sexual contact. There may be other types of sexual activity you might mutually agree to share.

  • Communicate. If your partner understands your sexual interest and expectations, they will be able to respond honestly and directly.

  • Before having sex, take inventory. Ask yourself, “How will I feel if my partner later tells me that they did not want to have sex?” If you have any doubts about what your partner wants, STOP, ASK, and CLARIFY. Both you and your partner should feel completely safe in a true, consensual encounter.

  • No one asks to be sexually assaulted. No matter how a person behaves, they do not deserve to have their body violated.

  • “No” means no. If you do not accept a “no,” you are violating someone and committing harm.

  • Consent means having the ability to make a decision. Engaging in sexual intercourse with a person who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent (incapacitated from alcohol, for example) is sexual violence. If someone is passed out, or is not in control, having sex with that person is a crime.

  • Intoxication is no excuse. The fact that you were intoxicated is not a legal defense to sexual violence. You are responsible for your actions, whether or not you are sober.

  • Be aware of potential physical advantage. Many survivors of sexual violence report that the fear they felt based on the aggressor’s size and presence was the reason why they did not fight back or struggle.

  • Do not assume their desire for affection is the same as a desire for intercourse.

  • Educate yourself on how other genders are socialized. What may seem like a totally safe and fun activity to you may be perceived completely different by someone else.

NOTE: ANYONE can be a victim of sexual violence. All people have the same rights to counseling and legal action.

Sexual violence happens. There is no denying that. But let’s be clear: It is NEVER the victim’s fault if it occurs.

The following are some strategies that you can use to strengthen your skills that can reduce your personal risk for sexual violence.

  • Be aware of controlling behavior in your date or relationship. Rape is a crime of power and control. Most survivors recall feeling “uncomfortable” about some of their partner’s behaviors including:

    • Intimidating stares

    • Degrading jokes or language

    • Refusal to respond to stated physical limits

    • Refusal to accept “no” as an answer, whether in a sexual context or otherwise

    • Insistence on making all of the “important” decisions about the relationship or date

    • An unwillingness to interact with you as a person rather than a sexual object

    • Extreme jealousy, possessiveness

    • Strong belief in sex role stereotypes

    • A history of violent behavior

    • *If you see this behavior in a partner of a friend or family member, speak to that friend/family member about your concerns. This is how you can be an active bystander.

  • Define yourself and your sexual limits. Your sexual limits are yours alone to define. The first step in resisting abuse is to define your limits clearly to yourself and then to act quickly when a date or partner intentionally or unintentionally crosses your stated boundaries.

  • Set clear limits and be firm. It is your body, and no one has the right to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. Many people have difficulty confronting coercive behavior because they have been socialized to be “polite”. If you do not want to be touched, you can say, “Don’t touch me,” or “Stop it, I’m not enjoying this.” Tell your partner, “If you do not respect my wishes right now, I’m leaving” and then do it if your partner won’t listen.

  • Say “yes” when you mean “yes” and “no” when you mean “no.” Be sure that your words do not conflict with other signals such as eye contact, tone of voice, posture or gestures.

  • Be independent and aware on your dates. Do not be totally passive. Have opinions about where to go. Think about appropriate places to meet (not necessarily your room or your date’s; these are the most likely places for acquaintance rape to occur).

  • Examine attitudes about money and power in the relationship. If your partner pays for the date, does it affect your ability to say “no”? Does your date have a sense of sexual entitlement attached to spending money on your relationship? If so, then you may consider paying your own way, or suggesting dates that do not involve money.

  • Avoid secluded places where you could be vulnerable. If you are unsure of a new person in your life or if this person has exhibited some of the controlling behaviors listed above, suggest a group or double date. Meet in public places, where there are other people and where you feel comfortable. This is especially important at the beginning of a relationship until you feel you know the person better.

  • Trust your gut. If you feel you are in a dangerous situation, or that you are being pressured, you’re probably right, and you need to respond. Many survivors report having had a “bad feeling” about the situation that led to their victimization. If a situation feels bad or you start to get nervous about your date’s behavior, confront the person immediately or leave as soon as possible.

  • If you feel pressured, coerced or fearful: protest loudly, leave, and go for help. Make a scene! Your best defense is to attract attention to the situation if you feel you are in trouble. In an attempt to be nice or avoid embarrassment, you may be reluctant to yell or run away to escape being attacked. If you are worried about hurting the aggressors’ feelings, remember, the aggressor is attempting to hurt you physically and psychologically. You deserve to stay safe!

  • Be aware that alcohol is the most common date rape drug. It compromises your ability (and your partner’s ability) to make responsible decisions. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink responsibly.

  • Be aware of inequalities in the relationship. Rape is a display of power. Does your partner perceive differences in terms of money, experience and age as entitling them to have power over you in the relationship? Someone who commits sexual violence chooses to enforce such power imbalances in a sexual context.

  • Practice self-defense and use it when you need to. Knowing in advance how you would respond to a physical threat greatly increases your chances of escape. Anyone can learn self-defense and classes are often available free or at a low cost through schools and the community. On-campus self defense classes can be found here.

  • Challenge sexist attitudes that make rape acceptable. People often deny the assailant’s responsibility in a sexual assault by blaming the victim. People may do this to convince themselves that only “bad” people are at risk for sexual violence and that if they live their lives by certain moral standards, they are safe. The truth is that as long as one person is at risk for sexual violence, everyone is a potential target of violence. People can resist sexual violence by challenging the attitude that those who are sexually assaulted “deserve” to be victimized, and by intervening on behalf of those in danger.

REMEMBER: At any point your partner/date/acquaintance/friend has a range of choices — if they choose to rape, that choice is 100% their responsibility. It is NEVER your fault.

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