Preventing Sexual Violence
When we think about alternatives to vulnerability, we must be careful not to assume that there is always something a person "could have done" to prevent an assault. This is blaming the victim. When a person is sexually assaulted, it is the assaulter who is to blame.
In addition, sexual assaults, including those committed by acquaintances, may be violent and unexpected. This means that even when a person is able to assert what s/he wants, there is no guarantee that his/her feelings will be respected.
There are no formulas that can guarantee our safety from sexual assault. In a situation that is becoming coercive or violent, the moment is often too confusing to plan an escape, and people react in various ways. Some will fight back. Others will not fight back for any number of reasons such as fear, self-blame, or not wanting to hurt someone who may be a close friend. While fighting and giving up are both extreme reactions, it is important to realize that any reaction is legitimate. Again, the burden of responsibility must be on the attacker, not the victim.
Remember that date rape is a crime. It is never acceptable to use force in sexual situations, no matter what the circumstances.
- Be an active partner in a relationship. Arranging where to meet, what to do, and when to be intimate should all be shared decisions.
- Listen carefully. Take the time to hear what the other person is saying. If you feel s/he is not being direct or is giving you a "mixed message", ask for a clarification.
- Know your sexual intentions and limits. You have the right to say "No" to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are uncertain about what you want, ask the person to respect your feelings.
- Communicate your limits firmly and directly. If you say "No", say it like you mean it. Don't give mixed messages. Back up your words with a firm tone of voice and clear body language.
- Don't assume that your date will automatically know how you feel, or will eventually "get the message" without your having to tell him or her.
- Don't fall for the common stereotype that when a person says "No" it really means "Yes". "No" means "No". If someone says "No" to sexual contact, believe it and stop.
- Remember that some people think that drinking heavily, dressing provocatively, or going to a person's room indicates a willingness to have sex. Be especially careful to communicate your limits and intentions clearly in such situations.
- Be aware that having sex with someone who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent is rape. If you have sex with someone who is drugged, intoxicated, passed out, incapable of saying "No", or unaware of what is happening, you may be guilty of rape.
- Don't make assumptions about a person's behavior. Don't automatically assume that someone wants to have sex just because s/he drinks heavily, dresses provocatively, or agrees to go to your room. Don't assume that just because the other person has had sex with you previously s/he is willing to have sex with you again. Also don't assume that just because the person consents to kissing or other sexual intimacies s/he is willing to have sexual intercourse.
- Listen to you gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think you may be at risk, leave the situation immediately and go to a safe place.
- Be especially careful in group situations. Be prepared to resist pressure from friends to participate in violent or criminal acts.
- Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to "look out" for one another. Try to leave with a group, rather than alone or with someone you don't know very well.
- Don't be afraid to "make waves" if you feel threatened. If you feel you are being pressured or coerced into sexual activity against your will, don't hesitate to state your feelings and get out of the situation. Better a few minutes of social awkwardness or embarrassment than the trauma of sexual assault.
- Get involved if you believe someone is at risk. If you see a person in trouble at a party or a friend using force or pressuring another person, don't be afraid to intervene. You may save someone from the trauma of sexual assault and your friend from the ordeal of criminal prosecution.
- Confront others' rape jokes and remarks; explain to others why these jokes are not funny and the harm they can cause.
- Confront other people's harassment--verbal or physical. Harassment is not experienced as flattery, but as a threat.
- Educate others about what rape really is. Help them to clear up any misconceptions they might have.
- Ask someone who you don't recognize what they are doing in your dorm or residence, or who it is they are looking for.
- Confront potential rape scenes. When you see a someone verbally harassing another person, stand by to see if s/he the person being harassed needs help. If a someone is hitting or holding a person against his or her will, do something immediately to help.
- When walking in groups or even alone be conscious as you approach another person. Be aware of how afraid that person might feel, and give him or her space on the street if possible.
- Be supportive of person's actions to control their own lives and make their own decisions. Don't be afraid to express these ideas.
- If someone you know has expressed violent feelings or demonstrated violent behavior in a particular relationship, try to help him or her find an appropriate person with whom to talk (such as a counselor, RA, clergy, etc).
10 Things Anyone Can Do To Help Prevent Sexual Assault
- Be aware of language. Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. When we see women as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights, and ignore their well-being.
- Communicate. Sexual violence often goes hand in hand with poor communication. Our discomfort with talking honestly and openly about sex dramatically raises the risk of rape. By learning effective sexual communication -- stating your desires clearly, listening to your partner, and asking when the situation is unclear Ė you can make sex safer for yourself and others.
- Speak up. You will probably never see a rape in progress, but you will see and hear attitudes and behaviors that degrade women and promote rape. When your best friend tells a joke about rape, say you donít think itís funny. When you read an article that blames a rape survivor for being assaulted, write a letter to the editor. When laws are proposed that limit womenís rights, let politicians know that you wonít support them. Do anything but remain silent.
- Support survivors of rape. Rape will not be taken seriously until everyone knows how common it is. By learning to sensitively support survivors in their lives, we can help both women and other men feel safer to speak out about being raped and let the world know how serious a problem rape is.
- Contribute Your Time and/or Money. Donate your time or money to an organization working to prevent violence against women in our community, such as Crisis Services or the Family Justice Center .
- Organize. Join an organization dedicated to stopping violence against women, such as The Menís Group here at UB. Menís Anti-Rape groups are powerful in the fight to end sexual violence. You may also join SBI Safety Services through SBI Health Education.
- Talk with women... about how the risk of being raped affects their daily lives; about how they want to be supported if it has happened to them; about what they think men can do to prevent sexual violence. If youíre willing to listen, you can learn a lot from women about the impact of rape and how to stop it.
- Talk with men... about how it feels to be seen as a potential rapist; about the fact that 10-20% of all males will be sexually abused in their lifetimes; about whether they know someone whoís been raped. Learn about how sexual violence touches the lives of men and what we can do to stop it.
- Work to end ALL oppressions. Rape feeds off many other forms of prejudice -- including racism, homophobia, and religious discrimination. By speaking out against any beliefs and behaviors, including rape, that promote one group of people as superior to another and deny other groups their full humanity, you support everyoneís equality.
- Always make sure itís consensual. If youíre going to have sex, make sure that itís consensual. Consensual sex is when both partners are freely and willingly agreeing to whatever sexual activity is occurring. Consent is an active process, you cannot assume you have consent Ė you need to ask. Consent cannot be given legally when an individual is intoxicated.
Help! Where to find it.
Counseling Services (645-2720)
120 Richmond Quad
Crisis Services (834-3131)
24 hour telephone hotline
Copyright - Counseling Services, State University of New York at Buffalo