RISK REDUCTION: Steps you can take to reduce the risk of sexual assault
- Self-Defense: Participate in a self-defense workshop to learn to protect yourself using your mind, voice, and body.
- Assertive Communication: Know your rights and limits and express them clearly. Respond with a firm, immediate, and assertive response if someone makes you feel uncomfortable or violates your boundaries. Back up your statement by using confident body language, eye contact, and voice tone.
- Awareness: Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Complete a personal inventory of how you might take safety steps at home, in your car, on the street, online, and in social situations. Be cautious of making personal information public. Always let someone know where you are and when you expect to return.
- Drug & Alcohol Safety: Don’t drink or do drugs beyond your ability to control your body or environment. Only accept drinks when you see them made and don’t leave your drink unattended at a bar or party. Be aware of the warning signs of GHB and other drugs used for sexual assault. Discuss with friends how you will help protect each other.
- Intuition & Warning Signs: Trust your intuition and pay attention to warning signs. If a person doesn’t take you seriously or pay attention to your general decisions and needs, it’s unlikely that they’ll do so in a sexual context. Choose partners and friends who respect your decisions and treat you as an equal.
PREVENTING SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Steps you can take to help prevent sexual violence by helping build healthy relationships and creating a culture of equity and respect:
- Make Sexual Assault Prevention your business: Sexual violence affects everyone, regardless of gender, age, race, class, sexual orientation, or ability. Everyone has a role to play in prevention.
- Support Survivors. A woman is raped every minute in the United States, yet only 16% of rapes are ever reported to the police and many survivors never tell anyone at all. Sexual assault won’t end until survivors feel safe coming forward for help. Never blame survivors! Support them by believing and listening to them and helping them find resources. Commit to healing from the violence in your life using the tools that are right for you.
- Hold perpetrators accountable. Encourage people who commit violence to get help. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and that there are counselors and support groups to help them change.
- Watch your Language! Despite the old “sticks and stones” adage, words not only hurt us, they help justify abuse. Young people hear women called “bitches” and “sluts” everyday. Coaches tell male athletes not to “throw like a girl.” The phrase “that’s so gay” is commonly used to describe something as stupid or worthless. These words send a message that women and gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are less than fully human. These messages make it easier to treat them with less respect, ignore their rights, and harass them. Make sure your own language doesn’t condone discrimination or violence, and talk with others about it.
- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Learn to communicate openly and honestly about relationships and sex. This includes talking about your desires and limits, listening to your partner, and checking in when things are unclear.
- Teach your Children Well. Talk to your children, younger siblings, or other young people in your life about how to communicate assertively and stand up for themselves. Give them honest information about sex, dating, and violence. Help them find non-violent ways of resolving conflict. Find out what your local K-12 school board’s policy is on sexual violence prevention education for students, teachers, and parents and get involved in bringing prevention programs to local school.
- Challenge Gender Stereotypes. Resist traditional norms about passive femininity and aggressive masculinity. Encourage girls to be assertive and help them build confidence and self-esteem. Let them know their value goes far beyond their appearance or relationship status. Mentor and teach boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve disrespecting women, and that their value is not about winning or dominating others. Lead young people by example.
- Find Positive Media Alternatives. Popular music and other media often contain language that degrades women and glorifies violence against them. Don’t give your money to artists or companies that spread negative messages, and actively seek out alternatives that promote equality and positive sexuality.
- Speak Up. Your voice is an essential tool in ending sexual violence. The next time you hear a rape joke, say it’s not funny. The next time someone says a survivor was at fault for being raped because of what they were drinking or wearing, let them know that there is no excuse for sexual violence. Speak out through letters to the editor or calls to your elected representatives urging support for policies and programs that work to end sexual assault.
- Contribute your money and time. Donate money toward support services for survivors and sexual assault prevention programs. Contribute time by becoming a sexual assault counselor or prevention educator, participating in anti-sexual assault events, or starting a club at your school or workplace.
- Show solidarity. Sexual violence has its roots in beliefs that entire groups of people are superior or inferior to each other. Rape feeds on systems of inequality like sexism, heterosexism & homophobia, ageism, and racism. Help end rape by being an ally to all groups targeted by oppression, and support justice, non-violence, and equality everywhere you can.