Although a sexual assault is never the fault of the victim, there are some steps you can take to safeguard yourself from an attack.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there are nearly 238,000 sexual assaults in America each year.
Of the victims, 80 percent are under the age of 30, and almost all of the victims are women. It’s sad to say, but these statistics speak to the fact that women must take steps to safeguard themselves from an attack.
So, what is a sexual assault? The actual definition varies depending on the language used in your state’s laws. For our purposes, a sexual assault is any time a person is forced or coerced into sexual touching against their consent. This includes rape (forced vaginal, oral or anal sex), sexual abuse and groping.
Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk of sexual assault.
Always be aware
Keep a close eye on your surroundings at all times, and avoid any situations in which you are isolated. Elevators, stairwells and dark alleys are dangerous places for women who are by themselves. If you must walk by yourself, pay attention to your gut and remove yourself from situations and locations that make you feel uncomfortable. Also, try to avoid distractions like headphones or talking on the phone, especially when you’re by yourself.
Avoid being a target
Distracted women, or women who can’t easily fight back make easy targets for assailants. Try not to carry too many bags or boxes at any time, as this can make you a target. Ponytails can also serve as an easy way to grab you, so avoid the hairstyle when you’re by yourself.
Employ a buddy system
Unfortunately, women don’t have the luxury of just going out by themselves, especially when it comes to nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Always have a buddy with you so you can watch out for each other in a social setting.
Keep an eye on your drink
It only takes a second for an assailant to slip a drug into your drink. Never leave your drink unattended, and always keep it in your line of view when you set it down. If you do leave your drink to go to the bathroom or to hit the dance floor, get rid of it. Furthermore, never accept a drink from a stranger (unless he orders it for you and you watch the bartender pour it).
Go ahead and hurt feelings
Women sometimes find themselves in isolated and dangerous situations because they’re afraid of hurting feelings. But if a man is making you feel uncomfortable, he needs to have his feelings hurt. Don’t be tender-hearted toward a man who makes you uneasy, because he’s not being tender-hearted to you. If you don’t want to go home with him, don’t want to dance with him or don’t want to accept a drink from him, then tell him firmly. No means no, regardless of whether the situation is “innocent” or violent.
Use an escape plan
Plan for the worst case scenario. Keep your cell phone charged at all times, and carry the number for a cab along with cash for the fare. Not only that, make sure that you and your buddy have agreed on the time you plan to leave, and stick to it.
What to do if you’ve survived an assault
No matter what your choices were leading up to the assault, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. You didn’t ask for it and you didn’t want it, no matter what your assailant wants you to believe. If you’ve survived an assault of any kind, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. The anonymous hotline will provide you with a referral to a local rape crisis center and advise you on your next steps. You can also visit the RAINN website for more information about sexual assault, counseling and reporting the incident to police.