Safety Precautions Against Sexual Assault

"As I was walking out of the bathroom at the end of a party, he pushed me back in and would not stop until I was against the corner of the stall. I tried to get away, but there was no one else in the room, and every time I resisted his grip tightened. I repeatedly stated that this was not a good idea and that I needed to go home, but he did not listen. Nor did he care. I somehow convinced him to step back out of the closed area by agreeing to go back to his place, which was close by. As we entered his house, I said I needed to use the restroom and would be back in a minute. Instead, I ran."

Living in the "bubble" created by a university campus, one often creates a false sense of security. With academics, extra-curricular activities and a vibrant social scene, it is easy to get wrapped up in the familiar environment. Even though students are repeatedly reminded of the startling statistics and stories of sexual assault, it is difficult to recognize the reality in which these instances occur without first or second-hand exposure. It is important to understand the gravity of sexual assault, and though it stands to note that it is not the victim's fault, there are precautions one can take to decrease this from happening.

Don't walk alone: There truly is power in numbers. Chances are, if you are by yourself, you are more likely to be approached or feel intimidated. Alternatively, the more people you are with, the less vulnerable you appear, and there is a smaller chance you will find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Furthermore, if something were to happen, there is someone else with you to help the incident from escalating.

Remain in lit and open areas: There is a reason horror films create the most active scenes in dark alleyways or isolated roads.  These images are applicable to reality, as closed off areas give a perpetrator the opportunity to get you alone. Being in an isolated area also makes it more difficult for you to call for help if needed.

Make sure your phone is charged: Being able to communicate with someone when you are in trouble is extremely helpful. If you are in an uncomfortable situation, text or call a friend to come get you. In case of a more serious situation, call the police or 911. Make sure you have numbers for your local police department stored in your phone. It doesn't hurt to keep a couple numbers on speed dial in case you don't have a long window in which you can call someone.

Carry pepper spray: Pepper spray is easy to conceal and carry in your bag, and is an effective self-defense mechanism. This weapon immediately blinds the attacker, giving you some time to run to safety. Pepper spray is legal, inexpensive and can even come in disguises like lipstick or air fresheners. Knowing you have an exit strategy if necessary will make you feel and appear more confident, dismissing an attacker preying on vulnerability.

Keep track of your friends: Approximately 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim so make sure to watch out for your friends even in a familiar setting. Go out with a group of friends and make sure to come back with them as well. If someone wants to leave early, make sure you both have someone to walk home with. If you leave early, remember to check up on your friend as well. Sacrificing a couple hours to ensure a friend's safety is worth the trouble compared to the possibility of entering a dangerous situation.

Be cautious of your clothing: While it may not be fair that what you wear "attracts attention," an offender may misinterpret the image given off or use it as an excuse to commit a violent act. Although it is not an accurate assumption, walking in heels and a skirt at night may give strangers a false belief that they can still whistle at you or treat you a certain way. If you are dressing up for a party, take a jacket along for the walk home. This way, you avoid any unpleasant cat calls and can still keep your style intact.

Although there is no fool-proof method to prevent sexual assault, taking precautions ensures that you are doing what you can to prevent a bad situation. There is always risk in going out late at night, or any other time for that matter, but following these steps will make you feel more secure and make you more cautious of your choices.