Risk reduction tips my help you reduce your risk of experiencing non-consensual sexual misconduct. These risk reduction tips are not intended to have a victim-blaming tone, as it is recognized that only those who commit acts of sexual misconduct are responsible for their actions.
- If you have limits, make them known as early as possible.
- Tell a sexual aggressor “NO” clearly and firmly.
- Try to remove yourself from the physical presence of a sexual aggressor.
- Find someone nearby and ask for help.
- Take affirmative responsibility for your alcohol intake/drug use and acknowledge that alcohol/drugs lower your sexual inhibitions and may make you vulnerable to someone who views a drunk or high person as a sexual opportunity.
- Take care of your friends and ask that they take care of you. A real friend will challenge you if you are about to make a mistake. Respect them when they do.
If you find yourself in the position of being the initiator of sexual behavior, you owe sexual respect to your potential partner. These suggestions may help you to reduce your risk for being accused of sexual misconduct:
- Clearly communicate your intentions to your sexual partner and give them a chance to clearly relate their intentions to you.
- Understand and respect personal boundaries.
- DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about consent; about someone’s sexual availability; about whether they are attracted to you; about how far you can go or about whether they are physically and/or mentally able to consent. If there are any questions or ambiguity then you DO NOT have consent.
- Mixed messages from your partner are a clear indication that you should stop, defuse any sexual tension and communicate better. You may be misreading them. They may not have figured out how far they want to go with you yet. You must respect the timeline for sexual behaviors with which they are comfortable.
- Don’t take advantage of someone’s drunkenness or drugged state, even if they did it to themselves.
- Realize that your potential partner could be intimidated by you, or fearful. You may have a power advantage simply because of your gender or size. Don’t abuse that power.
- Understand that consent to some form of sexual behavior does not automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual behavior.
- Silence and passivity cannot be interpreted as an indication of consent. Read your potential partner carefully, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal communication and body language.
In a Social Situation
While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault/violence, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted in social situations.
- 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. It’s not always possible to know if something has been added to someone’s drink. In drug-facilitated sexual assault, a perpetrator could use a substance that has no color, taste, or odor.
- 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. Learn more about how to keep your friends safe in social settings.
Source: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)