Preventing Sexual Assault
What can you do to protect yourself?
There are no simple answers, and no matter what you do, there is no guarantee that you will be safe. Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone.
You probably know a lot of common-sense ways to reduce your risk of being a victim of any crime. Unfortunately, it is not possible to avoid all situations that could be dangerous, even if you never leave your house. Sometimes we have to walk alone in the dark, even if it is just out to the car; sometimes there is no one else to walk with us. Sometimes we have to travel alone, for work or family reasons. We can plan ahead as much as possible, but life is just not predictable, and we cannot plan everything.
A lot of safety precautions are common sense. Lock the doors of your house and car. If you can, do errands during daylight instead of after dark. If you can walk to the parking lot with a co-worker, make a habit of leaving together. If not, perhaps your building has a security officer who would not mind walking you to your car. Don't be afraid to ask. Most people are happy to help.
It is easy to find lists of instructions on how to keep yourself safe. But even if you do everything on those lists, something could still happen. And even if you went for a walk late at night, or went to a guy's room, or had a few drinks, or wore a short skirt, it is not your fault if something did happen to you. There are a few easy safety precautions that you can take without restricting your activities.
STICK WITH A FRIEND
When you go out or to a party, use the buddy system, and know the risks of rape drugs (see below). If you and a friend agree to stick together and look out for each other, you are both less likely to be victims of any kind of crime. It is much harder to overcome two people than one, and most potential attackers will not even try. You really have to stick together for this to work - arrive together, stay together and leave together. This is the best way you can protect yourself.
BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Pay attention to what is going on around you. Make eye contact with people. If you are alert and aware, you may see a dangerous situation in time to get out of it, and you will not look like an easy target. People who plan to commit crimes do not want it to be difficult and often rely on the element of surprise. If you are alert and aware, you will not look like easy prey.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
If you get a bad feeling about a person or situation, leave. Don't worry about hurting someone's feelings. People who care about you will understand. Your safety is more important.
Some attackers use drugs to make their victims unable to defend themselves. At Vera House, we see many people who have been drugged and sexually assaulted. Rape drugs are especially common on college campuses and at parties, even among middle school and high school students.
Some of the common rape drugs are Rohypnol, GHB, ketamine and Ecstasy. Each one has many names. They are usually slipped into a person's drink in liquid or powder form when that person is not looking. Shortly after consuming one of these drugs, people become unconscious or very disoriented, lose some or all muscle control and will suffer partial or total memory loss of the time the drug is in effect.
The danger of rape drugs is that they are colorless, tasteless and odorless. Since you cannot see, taste or smell them in a drink, they are very hard to detect. Remember, these drugs can be slipped into any kind of drink, not just alcoholic ones - beer, wine, soda, juice and especially mixed drinks of any kind.
This does not mean that you cannot go out with friends or go to parties. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of being drugged:
- Do not accept an open drink from anyone. Open cans or bottles yourself
- If someone offers you an open can or bottle, ask for one that has not been opened. Do not accept drinks from open containers such as pitchers or punch bowls or someone else's drink
- Do not put your drink down or out of your sight. If you do, do not finish it. Get a new drink. Do not drink anything that has been out of your sight
- At a bar or club, accept drinks only from a bartender or server. If possible, watch him or her prepare your drink
- Bring your own drinks to parties. Do not let them out of your sight
- Do not drink anything with an unusual taste or appearance
If you feel dizzy, confused or have other unusual symptoms after drinking something, you might have been drugged. Call a family member, friend, the police or 911 for help in getting to a hospital right away. If possible, bring a sample of the drink. Request a urine test for evidence of sedation as quickly as possible. This is not a routine part of the rape examination. Every hour matters, since your body processes any drugs in your system. Chances of getting proof are best when the sample is obtained as soon as possible.