By Sue Danielson, health services
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to call attention to sexual violence in our communities and stop it before it begins. Did you know:
- Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.
- 44 percent of victims are under age 18 and 80 percent are under age 30.
- 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
- Approximately four of five assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
Giving and getting consent is a must before any sexual activity is to occur. There are many ways to give consent, but verbally agreeing to sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries. Consent can also be withdrawn at any point.
Positive consent can look like this:
- Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like, “Is this OK?”
- Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement.
Consent does not sound or look like this:
- Refusing to acknowledge “no.”
- Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more.
- Someone being incapacitated because of drugs and alcohol.
- Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation.
- Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past.
College campuses can give you a sense of security—a feeling that everyone knows each other and watches out for one another. We can all take steps to increase safety on college campuses. As bystanders, students can learn ways to step in to prevent crimes like sexual assault from happening.
Tips that may reduce your risk for many different types of crimes, including sexual violence:
- Know your resources. Who should you contact if you or a friend needs help? Where should you go? Locate resources such as the campus health center, campus security office, and a local sexual assault service provider. Notice where emergency phones are located on campus, and program the campus security number into your cell phone for easy access.
- Stay alert. When you’re moving around on campus or in the surrounding neighborhood, be aware of your surroundings. Consider inviting a friend to join you or asking campus security for an escort. If you’re alone, only use headphones in one ear to stay aware of your surroundings.
- Be careful about posting your location. Many social media sites, like Facebook and Foursquare, use geolocation to publicly share your location.
- Think about Plan B. Spend some time thinking about back-up plans for potentially sticky situations. If your phone dies, do you have a few numbers memorized to get help? Do you have emergency cash in case you can’t use a credit card? Do you have the address to your dorm or college memorized? If you drive, is there a spare key hidden, gas in your car, and a set of jumper cables?
- Be secure. Lock your door and windows when you’re asleep and when you leave the room. If people constantly prop open the main door to the dorm or apartment, tell security or a trusted authority figure.
Safety in social settings
It is possible to relax and have a good time while still making safety a priority. Consider these tips for staying safe and looking out for your friends in social settings.
- Make a plan. If you’re going to a party, go with people you trust. Agree to watch out for each other and plan to leave together. If your plans change, make sure to touch base with the other people in your group. Don’t leave someone stranded in an unfamiliar or unsafe situation.
- Protect your drink. Don’t leave your drink unattended, and watch out for your friends’ drinks if you can. If you go to the bathroom or step outside, take the drink with you or toss it out. Drink from unopened containers or drinks you watched being made and poured.
- Know your limits. Keep track of how many drinks you’ve had, and be aware of your friends’ behavior. If one of you feels extremely tired or more drunk than you should, you may have been drugged. Leave the party or situation and find help immediately.
- It’s okay to lie. If you want to exit a situation immediately and are concerned about frightening or upsetting someone, it’s okay to lie. You are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, pressured, or threatened. You can also lie to help a friend leave a situation that you think may be dangerous. Some excuses you could use are needing to take care of another friend or family member, an urgent phone call, not feeling well, and having to be somewhere else by a certain time.
- Be a good friend. Trust your instincts. If you notice something that doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Feeling safe after an assault
If you have experienced sexual assault, there are steps you can take to feel more safe.
- Make use of on-campus resources. Colleges often provide a host of services to students for free, including security escorts, health centers, psychological services, and sexual assault services.
- Request a schedule or housing change. If you have classes with the perpetrator or live in the same building, you can request a change from your college administration. Federal laws, such as the Campus SaVE Act, require colleges to honor these requests.
- Access off-campus support services. If you are concerned about anonymity, you can seek out resources located off campus in the community, like a local sexual assault service provider or domestic violence shelter.
- Seek a civil protection order (CPO). A CPO, sometimes also referred to as a temporary restraining order, is a legal document that bars an individual from certain types of contact with the person who is awarded the order. An individual who violates the terms of the restraining order can face criminal charges.
It is important to remember that if you are sexually assaulted, it is not your fault. Help and support are available. For more information, contact health services at 796-3806.
Information obtained from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, raainn.org.)