Student Wellness: How to Prevent Sexual Assault

There has been a focus on steps to take after a sexual assault occurs, but it’s better to prevent sexual assault from happening, and we can all play a role in that. Again, it is important to understand that sexual assault does happen on college campuses. There are steps students can take in order to prevent themselves from being a victim. The most widely used substance that is involved in sexual assault is alcohol, both for the victim and the perpetrator. Much of the sexual assault cases on college campuses involve both the victim and the perpetrator being under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol is the most used and abused date-rape drug on college campuses, and it can be found at most college parties.
In order to prevent sexual assault from happening it is important to protect yourself and be on the lookout. One action to take is to simply drink less when you are out at a party, enough to get a buzz, but not enough to be incoherent by the end of the night. Another strategy is to have a drink of alcohol, and then have a drink of water in between the next drink. Another part to be aware of is taking a drink from someone else, especially if you did not watch them pour it. It’s better to make the drink yourself, or be present when they are making your drink. It’s important to know your alcohol limits and what happens to you once you start drinking. If you can’t have more than three drinks, then stick to your three drinks all night. Be careful posting about your location and what you are doing. A predator can see that and try to advantage, especially when alcohol is involved, and show up to your location. Turn off these settings on your phone, and do not post pictures or updates until after you have gone home or left the party. Make a plan with your friends before you go out, and make sure all of you know what you are going to do if something comes up. Think of a safe word you could use with your friends so they know when it’s time to leave. Never go somewhere alone, always stay with one of your friends. Make sure you aware of the resources either on campus or off campus if you need to get away. Know where the exits are, if there are police around, where your friends are. Always be alert and know what it’s time to leave.
There’s another role in preventing sexual assault that we all need to play when we see it, and that is the bystander role. There is an unspoken, and false, belief among humans that the more witnesses there are, the more they think someone else will help. This is known as the bystander effect, and it posits that the more witnesses there are, the less likely people will help. If there are a lot of people at a party and they see a potential victim of sexual assault, they may think that someone else will intervene. Let’s look at it this way, if everyone in that room has the mindset, then who will step in help? No one. Never assume that someone else will step in to help someone who could potentially become a victim of sexual assault. Step up and help them. If you feel uncomfortable addressing the issue on your own, recruit a friend to help you, or a group of friends to help you stop the assault.
Bystander intervention training typically identifies five steps to taking action in order to prevent sexual assault. First, notice the event along a continuum of actions, meaning that you need to use your intuition to sense whether or not there could be a potentially dangerous situation. Do you think something needs to be done? Is an individual being aggressive toward another? Is there verbal or behavioral abuse? Once you see this, you must then figure out whether or not the situation warrants your attention. Should you become involved? Then you must decide whether you have the responsibility to act. At this point it is very important to think about what would happen if you didn’t act. If you do decide to take action, at this point you need to decide what you are going to do. Are you going to ask your friends for help? Will you distract the assailant? Will you ask the potential victim questions? Finally, you need to understand how to implement the choice safely, without putting yourself and others in danger. If you see a male grab a woman by the arm and forcing her into another room, this is the time to intervene. There are other situations where intervening is important, but this is an extreme example of when to take action.
If you see someone in need of help, there are a few options you can decide on to help them. Interrupt the situation by creating a distraction, this gives the individual time to move to a safer place. You could cut off the conversation by saying something like, “I’m hungry let’s order some pizza.” Bring out some food or drinks, or show them something on your phone you that was hilarious. Turn the music up and start dancing, try to bring in the potential victim to the dance party. These are just a few examples, but you can virtually use any form of distraction to help a potential get away from the assailant. Another step you could take is by asking the person direct questions like, “who did you come here with,” or do you want me to stay with you?” If they’re able to reply coherently you could speak to them long enough to where the potential assailant eventually leaves. If you see they’re having problems with slurring their words, they will not be able to give consent and it might be time to help them get home. The next step you could take is to seek out an authority, whether it’s the RA in the dorms, a bartender in a bar, or a police officer if you think the situation is serious. Don’t be afraid to get others involved. If you need to, ask your friends to help out with the situation. If can be intimidating to deal with this on your own, so enlist your friends to help you and together you could prevent a sexual assault.

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