20 Ways to Lessen Your Risk of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault and rape victimizes every one of every demographic in every country. Two-thirds of the men, women and children who fall victim to such horrors have some sort of relationship with their attackers, who use everything from violence to coercion to get the power they want. Many myths about both rape and sexual assault unfairly persist to this day, making the lives of its many victims just that much harder. Though April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month, every day of the year should be dedicated to chipping away at the roots of this serious issue. Taking the time to understand how to minimize the risk makes a great start, however.

There will always be situations when even the most cautious of individuals will find themselves victimized. Just because viable precautions exist does not mean anyone traumatized by rape or sexual assault "had it coming," as extenuating circumstances or mistaken trust can override awareness and preparedness. The only guilty parties here are the men and women who think it perfect acceptable to violate another’s body, either through violent or emotionally manipulative means.

  1. Enroll in self-defense classes: Nearly every major city — and plenty of suburbs — hosts at least a few different self-defense and martial arts schools, as do many colleges and universities. Try to find one within a viable price range and workable schedule and put forth the effort to take regular classes. Make sure to also thoroughly research both the businesses and the different strategies they teach before making any commitment. Even if participants never have to put their newfound skills to use (and here’s hoping they don’t!), self-defense is one of the most valuable investments individuals make for their own safety and peace of mind.

  2. Carry a weapon: Consider supplementing those self-defense classes by keeping a weapon concealed somewhere, like a purse or underneath a jacket. For those uncomfortable with the thought of owning a gun, options such as pepper spray, mace, stun guns or batons and plenty more provide a satisfactory level of protection as well. No matter which one proves best, however, anyone owning such devices must absolutely familiarize themselves with proper care, use, maintenance and (of course) legalities. Particularly when looking into gun ownership.

  3. Travel in packs: It’s not always possible to step out with a few friends in tow, but take advantage of any situations where it is. Predators feed on vulnerability, as assault and rape have everything to do with power and almost nothing to do with sex. A small group, particularly one with a little self-defense training and/or weapons in the ranks, will certainly make each member feel far safer than if they were to travel alone. This strategy works well for parties, too, as a throng of trusted pals can look out for one another and intervene when it looks like something ugly might happen.

  4. Never leave a drink alone: When navigating a party or bar, always keep drinks close at hand. Never set them down before going to the bathroom or (when applicable) heading outside for a smoke. Assailants may take advantage of the situation by slipping in drugs meant to disorient and disengage. Either drain a drink before heading off or leave it in the hands of a trusted friend who will reliably babysit it.

  5. Never accept drinks from strangers: As tempting as free drinks inevitably sound, taking them from unfamiliar individuals puts one at risk for drugging and sexual assault, rape or something even worse. When out with new friends, make sure to watch them, the bartender or the waitron pour the beverage in question to make sure it doesn’t end up spiked. There’s no need to be vocal or otherwise obvious about it, as doing so might offend genuinely good people, but one should always pay close attention to the situation at hand. A sharp eye could mean the difference between safety and violence.

  6. Don’t give in to pressure: Sometimes, individuals one finds attractive and romantically appealing enough to try and date commit sexual assault. They take advantage of interest to try to pressure potential partners into scenarios they may not necessarily find comfortable or safe. Stay strong and speak up whenever he or she starts attempting to initiate unwanted sexual or romantic acts; most importantly, remember that engaging anything that falls within the personal comfort zone should never be considered permission to ramp up the activity. It is not the victim’s fault if the criminal takes things too far, regardless of their physical connectivity up to that point.

  7. Be confident: As mentioned earlier, sexual assailants and rapists tend to pick their victims based on perceived (though not necessarily true) weakness and inferiority over any other factor. Whether out alone or amongst friends, projecting an air of confidence and purpose will dissuade them from perpetuating violence and a complete disrespect of body autonomy. Even without a definitive destination or goal in mind, make sure to step outside with escape and contingency plans just in case. Doing so will only contribute further to displaying a self-assured carriage.

  8. Always remain aware of surroundings: It doesn’t matter if a location is as familiar as a home apartment complex or as foreign as a brand new city — anyone hoping to lessen his or her chances of victimization by sexual assault or rape must always stay alert. Only leaving in one ear bud when listening to music makes one particularly effective strategy. Pay close attention to all stimuli and peace out or call the authorities when things start looking suspicious. There’s no reason to stick around when anyone’s safety gets called into question.

  9. Try to avoid remote locations whenever possible: There may be times when hanging around an isolated location is unavoidable, and when these do arise it’s best to keep most of the other tips here in mind. But sticking to busier areas, even when alone, puts help and emergency assistance at a much closer range. Likewise, try not to spend time with strangers or unfamiliar individuals in such areas as well, even if wanting to make friends. It’s much safer to grow acquainted with people in more crowded businesses first, before moving on to homes and obscure spots.

  10. Don’t accept rides from strangers: Conversely, don’t give rides to strangers, either. The risk of sexual assault, rape, murder or theft increases exponentially in such situations. When embarking on jaunts that could potentially end in stranding, such as hikes, make sure to bring along a small emergency preparedness kit. Also alert family and friends of the intended path or itinerary before embarking, taking the time to map out the details of what to do and whom to send in the event of a crisis. Always keep cash on hand in case a taxi or public transportation proves necessary.

  11. Don’t get weighed down: When traveling alone, make sure to not get bogged down with packages or equipment that might hinder movement. Assailants, acquaintances or strangers, may try to take advantage of this precarious situation. Such things prevent victims from not only bolting as quickly as they need to, but accessing any weapons on their person as well. Try to coordinate heavy shopping or moving with trusted friends and family whenever possible, saving the lighter, easier-to-ditch stuff for solo jaunts.

  12. Keep the phone charged: Invest in an emergency charger if necessary, as a full battery provides peace of mind for the weary traveler. Enough juice to call for help could make all the difference in the world when suspicious situations arise. Keep phones plugged in at work or home whenever possible, or at least top them off a little bit before heading out. Some people may even like the idea of keeping extra batteries on hand just in case.

  13. Never feel obligated or guilty: Going on a date does not oblige either party to kiss. Kissing does not oblige either party to grope. Groping does not oblige either party to more foreplay. And so forth. Nobody should ever make anyone feel as if they must push everything to the next level, and potential victims should never think they have to go through if something doesn’t seem comfortable or right. If the perpetrators retaliate somehow, at no point should their victims ever, for any reason, blame themselves for what happened. It isn’t their fault the one they’re with doesn’t respect their boundaries and personal decisions.

  14. Go with a buddy system at parties: Groups of friends hitting up crowded or unfamiliar parties might want to streamline their check-ins by using the buddy system. Rather than keeping an eye out for everyone, individuals partner up and focus on keeping each other safe. Some may like the idea of setting up regular times to meet and make sure everything’s going alright. But no matter what arrangement proves most comfortable, the paired up at least have someone trustworthy to monitor their drinks during bathroom runs.

  15. Moderate alcohol consumption: There’s no shame in drinking, nor is there any shame in occasional tipsiness. But too much alcohol or other intoxicants may cloud judgment and make it easier for sexual predators to take advantage of the situation. Before going out drinking, set a personal limit and do not budge from exceeding it, no matter the amount of pressure friends may place. Taking such precautions will help maintain alertness, awareness and keep judgment as sharp as possible without compromising a good time.

  16. Go on group dates: Dating is one of the most stressful and potentially dehumanizing experiences any human will ever encounter, and the potential for sexual assault only makes it all the more anxiety-inducing. One way to gauge a prospective partner is to arrange a group date with some friends as opposed to going out alone. Not only will it alleviate some of the tension, such an arrangement also serves as a great way to get some outside opinions. Trusted friends see things the besotted won’t and will hopefully catch some red flags before they become a problem.

  17. Report suspicious figures: Some, but not all, rapists or sexual assailants size up their potential victims through verbal taunts. Others prefer following, leering or other means of intimidation. If possible, call or try to find a nearby security guard or law enforcement official and report the threatening individual. Problems in the workplace should be reported to the HR department. Their intervention and cooperation will help prevent a crime before it occurs.
  18. Don’t go home if followed: The staggering majority of sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, but that doesn’t mean precautions should not be taken when dealing with strangers. When being followed by a stranger either on foot or in a car, don’t let her or him know where home is. Instead, head for the nearest safe area and phone for help. Even if it seems as if the individual has been shaken off, make sure to find a more secure route home — or stay with a trusted friend, partner or family member instead.

  19. Bystander intervention: Most people in the world aren’t horrible, and there’s times when even the most cautious, aware individuals find themselves threatened by violence, sexual or otherwise. Don’t allow problematic situations to escalate by refusing to ask, scream or call for assistance. Good Samaritans may very well intervene and help bring the assailant to justice. Or at least call in some people who will.

  20. Educate the world: Sexual assault and rape are unfortunately present in every nation of the world, no matter how "civilized" they think themselves. Education remains the most effective method to preventing both atrocities from occurring. Volunteer with an organization such as Take Back the Night or a local shelter, or donate money to their efforts. Organize programs and events meant to spread awareness of prevention strategies. There’s plenty of things one can do to address the root causes of these serious issues, and even the smallest of contributions still helps improve society.

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