Reducing Risk for Sexual Assault

How do I reduce my risk for assault?

Unfortunately, we live in a world where sexual assault occurs frequently. It is estimated that one out of five women worldwide will be a victim of rape or attempted rape over the course of her life (Cybulska and Forster 235). For this reason, individuals must be aware of how to reduce their risk of being assaulted. However, it is important to note that these tips are here simply to be used as guidelines to help avoid assault—even though a person can do things to improve their odds, they should never be held responsible. The fact that we feel the need to give these tips is the mark of a society where sexual assault is common.
Contrary to public belief, the majority of rape is committed by someone the victim knows. When the rapist is someone known to the victim, such as a date or a friend, it is called date rape or acquaintance rape. About 80% of rapes that happen in the United States are some form of date rape (Bruess et al, 2011). The perpetrator can even be a partner, spouse or family member. It is important therefore to think about the level of intimacy that you desire with someone and lay out clear limits early. Below are some tips on how to do that.
At the same time you, should take care to determine whether you should try to instigate sexual intimacy with a partner or an acquaintance. Communication between potential romantic partners can be difficult, and misunderstandings between people of different sexes are a common occurrence. What one person thinks is consensual may not match up to another person’s perception of the situation. For this reason it is important to fully communicate one’s desires beforehand, making sure to be especially careful when alcohol or drugs are involved. Do not rely on a person’s actions or body language alone, because this can be misinterpreted. Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted physical contact with sex organs. It is important to be aware of consent laws. Consent laws dictated that a victim cannot legally consent to sexual contact if he or she is violently coerced, intoxicated, below the age of legal consent (which varies by region) or is mentally disabled (Gray). When in doubt, always ask your partner whether he or she is comfortable with what is going on.
While there is no sure way to protect yourself from sexual violence, there are certain measures you can take to protect yourself and others:
  • Examine your feelings about sex and know where your boundaries are. Then it is less likely that you will be swept away at some moment later in time.
  • Set sexual limits. Stick to these limits and remember that no one can tell you where your limits are. This is a decision that you have to make and do not let anyone change these decisions or force you to go further than you want to.
  • Don’t give mixed signals. Be very clear about what you do and do not want. State your desires clearly. Instead of saying “I don’t think so”, say “NO! I don’t want to do this.”
  • Do not do anything you do not want to in order to avoid unpleasantness. If a person does not respect your feelings and boundaries, then they are someone you do not want to become intimate with anyway.
  • You are never obligated to have sex with someone and you have the right to discontinue sexual activity even after it has already started.
  • Don’t get into a situation where you are alone with someone who you do not know or trust.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Stay near other people for safety.
  • Avoid secluded areas and be careful when you invite someone into your home or go into theirs.
  • Be aware that alcohol and drugs are related to rape and be extra careful in situations that contain these substances.
  • Don’t leave your beverage unattended or accept an open container, since Roofies could be slipped into them.
  • If you are going out with a friend, stay with a group of people, arrive together and leave together and watch out for one another while you are out.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • If things begin to get out of control, do not be afraid to just leave.
  • Have your own transportation (if possible) or at least enough money for a taxi.
  • And finally, know yourself. If you don’t feel that you can trust yourself in certain situations, don’t let yourself get into them. Know your values and attitudes about power, sex, and love. Avoid falling for lines such as, “But I love you”. And if you know that you do fall for these lines, make sure that you do not put yourself in a situation without an easy escape.

This public service announcement from New Zealand shows the power of bystander intervention in preventing sexual assault.

1. Bruess, Clint E., Conklin, Sarah C, and Greenberg, Jerold S. (2011) Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Nartlett Publishers, LLC.
2. Cybulska, Beata, and Greta Forster. “Sexual Assault: examination of the victim.”Medicine 38.5 (2010): 235. Web. 14 Apr 2011. <>.
3. Gray, Sheri. “What is Sexual Assault?.” N.p., 2009. Web. 17 Apr 2011. <>.

Last Updated: 29 October 2012.