The responsibility for sexual assault lies fully with the people who commit sexual assault. That said, there are steps all of us can take to help prevent incidents of violence and and cultures that support it.
Monitor Your Own Behavior
Make sure that you only have sexual contact with people who are capable of providing consent and when consent is freely and clearly given.
Actively inquire about partners’ boundaries and respect them. Make sure you understand the basics of consent and how to practice it. Practice self awareness and work on healthy communication about sex.
Hold Friends Accountable and Keep Your Friends Safe
You can help keep an eye out for your friends and help hold them accountable for their actions toward others. If you see someone making advances or engaging sexually with someone who isn’t capable of consent, step in and diffuse the situation. Talk to your friends about consent and important values about healthy relationship behaviors.
If you think a friend is in an unsafe situation or you see someone being targeted or taken advantage of, don’t be afraid to step in and make sure they’re okay.
Research shows that the “bystander effect” makes us far less likely to help in an emergency situation when there are other people around. It’s up to you to be an active bystander. Own your culture and take care of your friends.
Keep an Eye on Your Friends
Have a plan for arriving and leaving together.
Check in during the party to see how everyone is doing.
If you are worried about a friend’s safety or behavior, say something.
Have a backup transportation plan and buddy system in case someone leaves early, your DD falls through, or you want to leave without waiting for the group.
Be an Active Bystander
Notice an occurrence out of the ordinary.
Evaluate with your head and your gut—is something wrong?
Ask yourself, "Could I play a role here?" If no one intervenes, what will likely happen?
Assess your options for giving help. What are the risks of each?
Intervene, or call someone else who can do so more effectively or safely.
Intervene When Something Isn’t Right
Create a distraction. Spill something, bring out fresh food, start a conversation with the people you are concerned about.
Talk to the person in danger directly. Ask them:
to go with you to the bathroom
what’s going on
if they are okay
who they came with and how they’re getting home
Enlist help from someone with authority (bartender, an RA, security).
Enlist help from the person’s friends.
Don’t leave. Be a witness.
There are steps you can take that may lower your risk of being targeted. However, you are never responsible for someone else’s decision to hurt or violate you. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network has great tips for thinking about your own safety.
Alcohol is often associated with sexual assault, particularly in college settings.
It is important to remember that alcohol does not cause sexual assault—someone must still be present and commit the assault.
Alcohol can make it easier for someone to commit sexual assault (a “drug facilitated sexual assault”) and can prevent a survivor from fully remembering what happened.
Remember that sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, regardless of whether they were drinking or using drugs. Being the target of an assault does not mean you “did something wrong” or “didn’t do enough” to keep yourself safe.
Be Safe When Consuming Alcohol
Avoid large batch drinks or punch—you have less verification of ingredients, and the alcohol content can be deceptively high.
Don’t leave your drink unattended. Take it with you to the bathroom or the dance floor or anywhere else you go.
Stick to bottled or canned beverages—something with a lid you remove yourself—or watch it being poured at the bar by the professional bartender.
Trust yourself. If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, go with your gut.
Know your limits. Be aware of how alcohol makes you feel. Know when something is “normal” for you or not. Do you feel more intoxicated than you should?
Listen to your sober self. Ask, “would I do this sober?” There are lots of things we know we wouldn’t do drunk: drive, take an exam, make major legal decisions… Will you be comfortable with your decision the next day?
Be Cautious Online
There are times when you may want to conceal your activity online for safety reasons. Be cautious and:
Use private or incognito browsing.
Erase the details of your recent online activity after the fact by clearing your cache and history. If someone is actively monitoring your computer use, this might alert them that you are trying to conceal your online activity.
Remember that your pictures, messages, emails, and other communications are out of your control once they are shared with someone else.
Check your privacy settings and never share your passwords or account information with anyone.
If you are or have been in an abusive relationship, or if you have been the victim of a sexual assault, there are other safety planning steps you can consider to help stay safe.