Sexual Violence Risk Reduction Strategies

Sexual Assault

  • Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
  • Resource: U.S. Department of Justice – www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault
  • Risk reduction tips can often take a victim-blaming tone, even unintentionally. With no intention to victimblame, and with recognition that only those who commit sexual violence are responsible for those actions, these suggestions may nevertheless provide you with options for increasing safety in areas over which you have some control.

Warning Signs: Red Flags

  • Watch out for people that:
    • Do not listen to you, ignore what you say, talk over you or pretend not to hear you. Such individuals may have little respect for others and would be more likely to hear "no" as meaning "convince me."
    • Ignore your personal space boundaries, such as standing or walking too close or touching you without permission.
    • Push you to drink beyond your tolerance level or wait to make a sexual advance until you are extremely intoxicated. Alcohol is the #1 drug used to perpetrate sexual violence.
    • Express anger or aggression frequently. Hostile feelings can easily be translated into hostile acts.
    • Use hostile or possessive language about others, such as “bitch”, “whore”, or “stupid” or other derogatory language. They may refer to their partner as their possession. This shows that the individual may not see others as human beings, but as objects that they own and can do with as they wish.
    • Do what they want regardless of what you want. A person may do this in little ways--for example, by making all the decisions about what you both will do.
    • Decide where to go without asking your opinion; later they may be likely to make the decision about whether you are ready to have sex with them.
    • Try to make you feel guilty, or accuse you of being "uptight" if you resist their sexual overtures.
    • Act excessively jealous or possessive.
    • Prevent you from seeing or talking to friends or family members, by keeping you isolated and separated from your support network.
    • Have stereotypical or unrealistic ideas about gender roles. Such perpetrators are not likely to take objections to sex seriously.
    • Drink heavily. A "mean drunk" can often get sexually aggressive, angry, or violent if they are rejected.

 Adapted from: Friends Raping Friends, Could it Happen to You? The Project on the Status and Education of Women, Association of American Colleges, 1997

How to Respond if Someone Is Pressuring You

  • Perpetrators of sexual violence often use tactics, such as guilt or intimidation, to pressure a person into something they do not want to do. It can be upsetting, frightening, or uncomfortable if you find yourself in this situation. Remember that it’s not your fault that the other person is acting this way—they are responsible for their own actions. The following tips may help you exit the situation safely.
  • Remind yourself this isn’t your fault. You did not do anything wrong. It is the person who is pressuring you who is responsible.
  • Trust your gut. Don't feel obligated to do anything you don't want to do. It doesn’t matter why you don’t want to do something. Simply not being interested is reason enough. Do only what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
  • Have a code word. Develop a code with friends or family that means, “I’m uncomfortable” or “I need help.” It could be a series of numbers you can text, like “311.” It might be a phrase you say aloud such as, “I wish we took more vacations.” This way you can communicate your concern and get help without alerting the person who is pressuring you.
  • It’s okay to lie. If you are concerned about angering or upsetting this person, you can lie or make an excuse to create an exit. It may feel wrong to lie, but you are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, scared, or threatened. Some excuses you could use are: needing to take care of a friend or family member, not feeling well, and having to be somewhere else by a certain time. Even excusing yourself to use the bathroom can create an opportunity to get away or to get help. Whatever you need to stay safe is okay – even if it may seem embarrassing at the time.                                                                                                        
  • Think of an escape route. If you had to leave quickly, how would you do it? Locate the windows, doors, and any others means of exiting the situation. Are there people around who might be able to help you?
    • How can you get their attention? Where can you go when you leave?
    • If you have to find a way out of a situation where someone is pressuring you, or if something happens that you didn’t consent to, it is not your fault. Take care of yourself, and know you’re not alone.

Source: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)