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Sexual Assault Safety & Prevention
What to do in a Risky Situation
If you need to get out of an uncomfortable or scary situation here are some things that you can try:
- Remember that being in this situation is not your fault. You did not do anything wrong, it is the person who is making you uncomfortable that is to blame.
- Be true to yourself. Don't feel obligated to do anything you don't want to do. "I don't want to" is always a good enough reason. Do what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
- Have a code word with your friends or family so that if you don’t feel comfortable you can call them and communicate your discomfort without the person you are with knowing. Your friends or family can then come to get you or make up an excuse for you to leave.
- Lie. If you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings it is better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Some excuses you could use are: needing to take care of a friend or family member, not feeling well, having somewhere else that you need to be, etc.
- Try to think of an escape route. How would you try to get out of the room? Where are the doors? Windows? Are there people around who might be able to help you? Is there an emergency phone nearby?
- If you and/or the other person have been drinking, you can say that you would rather wait until you both have your full judgment before doing anything you may regret later.
- Stay calm, consider your options and how safe it would be to resist.
- Say “NO” strongly. Do not smile; do not act polite or friendly.
- Say something like “Stop it. This is Rape!” This might shock the rapist into stopping.
- If the rapist is unarmed, fight back physically, shout “NO!” and run away as soon as possible.
- If the rapist is armed, try to talk him out of continuing the assault, or try passive resistance (pretend to faint/vomit/urinate).
What to do in Case of a Rape
In the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, the most important thing is for the victim to get to a safe place. Whether it be the victim’s home, a friend’s home or with a family member, immediate safety is what matters most.
When a feeling of safety has been achieved, it is vital for the victim to receive medical attention, regardless of his or her decision to report the crime to the police. For the victim’s health and self-protection, it is important to be checked and treated for possible injuries, even if none are visible.
This includes testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as receiving preventative treatments that may be available, depending upon the local response and resources. For instance, medications to prevent STIs and pregnancy and protect against HIV transmission may be offered.
In addition to receiving medical attention, victims are encouraged to receive a forensic examination. This exam is important because preserving DNA evidence can be key to identifying the perpetrator in a sexual assault case, especially those in which the offender is a stranger. DNA evidence is an integral part of a law enforcement investigation that can build a strong case to show that a sexual assault occurred and to show that the defendant is the source of biological material left on the victim’s body. Victims have the right to accept or decline any or all parts of the exam, however, it is important to remember that critical evidence may be missed if not collected or analyzed.
Victims should make every effort to save anything that might contain the perpetrator’s DNA, therefore a victim should not:
- Bathe or shower
- Use the restroom
- Change clothes
- Comb hair
- Clean up the crime scene
- Move anything the offender may have touched
Even if the victim has not yet decided to report the crime, receiving a forensic medical exam and keeping the evidence safe from damage will improve the chances that the police can access and test the stored evidence at a later date.
How to Help a Friend
It is also important to note that having a friend or family member who is raped or assaulted can be a very upsetting experience. For this reason it is also important that you take care of yourself. Even if your friend and family member isn’t ready to talk to a hotline specialist, you can get support for yourself. You can also get ideas about ways to help your friend or family member through the recovery process.
Self-Care for Survivors
Good self-care is a challenge for many people and it can be especially challenging for survivors of rape, sexual assault, incest and sexual abuse. It can also be an important part of the healing process.
Physical self-care is an area that people often overlook.
- Food is a type of self-care that people often overlook. People are often so busy that they don’t have time to eat regularly or that they substitute fast food for regular meals.
- It’s not always reasonable to expect people to get three square meals a day (plus snacks), but everyone should make sure they get adequate nutrition.
- Exercise is one of the most overlooked types of self-care. The CDC recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.
- Exercise, even if it’s just a quick walk at lunchtime, can help combat feelings of sadness or depression and prevent chronic health problems.
- Although everyone has different needs, a reasonable guideline is that most people need between 7-10 hours of sleep per night.
- Medical care
- Getting medical attention when you need it is an important form of physical self-care.
- Some survivors put off getting medical care until problems that might have been relatively easy to take care of have become more complicated.
Emotional self-care will mean different things for different people. It might mean:
- This could mean seeing a psychologist, a clinical social worker, or therapist.
- Local rape crisis centers often provide counseling or can connect you with a provider. Call 800-656-HOPE, or go to http://centers.rainn.org/ to find a center near you.
- Keeping a journal.
- Some survivors find that recording their thoughts and feelings in a journal or diary helps them manage their emotions after an assault.
- Meditation or relaxation exercises
- Relaxation techniques or meditation help many survivors with their emotional self-care. For example:
- Sit or stand comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Place one hand over your belly button. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and let your stomach expand as you inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth, sighing as you breathe out. Concentrate on relaxing your stomach muscles as you breathe in. When you are doing this exercise correctly, you will feel your stomach rise and fall about an inch as you breathe in and out. Try to keep the rest of your body relaxed—your shoulders should not rise and fall as you breathe! Slowly count to four as you inhale and to four again as you exhale. At the end of the exhalation, take another deep breath. After 3-4 cycles of breathing you should begin to feel the calming effects.
- Emotional self-care can also involve the people around you. It’s important to make sure that the people in your life are supportive.
- Nurture relationships with people that make you feel good about yourself!
- Make spending time with friends and family a priority
- If you have trouble finding people who can support your experience as a survivor, consider joining a support group for survivors.
- Be wary of:
- Friends or family who only call when they need something
- People who always leave you feeling tired or depressed when you see them
- Friends who never have the time to listen to you
- Anyone who dismisses or belittles your experience as a survivor
- You can deal with these people by setting limits.
- You don’t have to cut them out of your life (especially with family, that may not even be an option!) but choose the time you will spend with them carefully.
- Make sure that your time with these people has a clear end.
- Cut back on the time you spend with people who don’t make you feel good, or spend time with them in a group rather than one-on-one.
- Screen your calls. There’s no rule that says you have to answer your phone every time it rings. If you don’t feel like talking on the phone, call people back at a time that’s more convenient for you.
- You can deal with these people by letting some go.
If there are people in your life who consistently make you feel bad about yourself, consider letting those friendships or relationships go. This can be a difficult decision. Remember that you deserve to have people around you who genuinely care about you and who support you.
Another challenge can be in finding time for fun leisure activities. Many survivors have full-time jobs, go to school, volunteer and have families. Finding time to do activities that you enjoy is an important aspect of self-care.
- Get involved in a sport or hobby that you love! Find other people who are doing the same thing!
- Knowing that people are counting on you to show up can help motivate you.
- If you have a spouse or partner, make a date night and stick with it.
- Turn off your cell phones (within reason).
- Treat leisure appointments as seriously as business appointments. If you have plans to do something for fun, mark it on your calendar!
- Make your self-care a priority, not something that happens (or doesn’t happen!) by accident.
Dating violence is when one person purposely hurts or scares someone they are dating. Dating violence happens to people of all races, cultures, incomes and education levels. It can happen on a first date, or when you are deeply in love. It can happen whether you are young or old, and in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Dating violence is always wrong, and you can get help.
Dating violence includes:
- Physical abuse like hitting, shoving, kicking, biting or throwing things
- Emotional abuse like yelling, name-calling, bullying, embarrassing, keeping you away from your friends, saying you deserve the abuse or giving gifts to "make up" for the abuse.
- Sexual abuse like forcing you to do something sexual (such as kissing or touching) or doing something sexual when you cannot agree to it (like when you are very drunk).
Dating violence often starts with emotional abuse. You may think that behaviors like calling you names or insisting on seeing you all the time are a "normal" part of relationships. But they can lead to more serious kinds of abuse, like hitting, stalking, or preventing you from using birth control.
Dating violence can cause serious harm to your body and your emotions. If you are in an abusive relationship, get help.
Ways to Prevent Dating Violence
- Consider double dates or being with a group when first going out.
- When going out, let a friend or parent know when you will be back. Tell your date that you have done this so he/she will acknowledge someone is expecting you back at a certain time.
- Be assertive and direct. Be able to be straightforward about what you want, like or dislike in a relationship. Having these goals or plans will help create a positive outlook on the relationship.
A Few Warning Signs That Your Date May Have an Abusive Behavior
- Bad tempered/easily angered
- Isolates you from your friends or family
- Blames others for his/her problems
- Threatens force or violence
- Uses force during arguments
- Verbally abusive
- Constantly texting or sending instant messages (IMs) to monitor you
- Insisting on getting serious very quickly
- Acting very jealous or bossy
- Pressuring you to do sexual things
- Posting sexual photos of you online without permission
- Threatening to hurt you or themselves if you break up
- Blaming you for the abuse
Is Your Relationship Unhealthy? Ask Yourself These Questions
- Are you afraid of your partner?
- Does your partner choose who you hang out with?
- Is your partner making decisions for you?
- Does your partner humiliate you?
- Has your partner’s jealousy limited your independence?
- Has your partner ever kicked or punched or slapped you?
- Are you afraid your partner may do these things?
Answering “yes” to these questions is a definite sign of an unhealthy relationship. (Provided by Network for Battered Women.)
Ending an Abusive Relationship
If you are thinking of ending your relationship, consider these safety tips:
- If you don’t feel safe, don’t break up in person. It may seem cruel to break up over the phone or by email, but these ways can provide you the distance needed to stay safe.
- If you decide to break up in person, consider doing it in a public place. Take a cell phone with you if possible.
- Don’t try to explain your reasons for ending the relationship more than once. There is nothing you can say that will make your ex happy about the break up.
- Let your friends and parents know you are ending your relationship, especially if you think your ex will come to your house or try to get you alone.
- If your ex tries to come to your house when you’re alone, don’t go to the door.
- Trust yourself. If you feel afraid, you probably have a good reason.
- Ask for help. Contact your local police department; speak to a parent or someone you trust.
Help is Available
Remember that you are of importance and no one deserves to be abused or threatened. Turn to someone you can trust such as a professor, family member, friend, counselor or a nurse at Stoner Health services. These resources are here to specifically help you, so now it is your step to go there. If you decide to tell any of these members, they are legally required to report neglect or abuse to the police.
Or, contact the Support Network for Battered Women’s 24-hour hotline (800-572-2782).
Help Someone Else
If you know someone who might be in an abusive relationship:
- Tell them you are worried.
- Be a good listener.
- Ask how you can help them seek help.
Domestic Violence is legally defined as when spouses or intimate partners use physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment or stalking to control the behavior of their partners. Domestic violence is a crime, a learned behavior and is a choice.
Think about the following questions to distinguish whether you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence:
- Has your partner or spouse ever hurt or threatened you or your children?
- Has your partner or spouse ever hurt your pets, broken objects in your home or destroyed something that you especially cared about?
- Does your partner or spouse throw or break objects in the home during arguments?
- Does your partner or spouse act jealously, for example, always calling you at work or home to check up on you?
- Does your partner or spouse accuse you of flirting with others or having affairs?
- Does your spouse or partner make it hard for you to find or keep a job or to go to school?
- Does your partner ever force you to have sex when you wish not to, or make you do things during sex that you do not want to?
Steps to Take in Getting Out of Domestic Violence
- Call Support Network for Battered Women (800-572-2782) or National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-787-3224). Ask for the nearest shelter and how to get there.
- Call family and friends and see if they would be willing to provide transportation, shelter or anything else you may need.
- If you are unable to stay with family or friends, choose a hotel/motel in which you can stay. Find out the quickest way there.
- Also know that police stations, fire stations and hospitals are always a safe place to go. Make sure to know the fastest way to get there.
Five Ways to Eliminate Domestic Violence
- Know what domestic violence is: When a spouse or intimate partner uses physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment or stalking to control the behavior of their partners, they are committing domestic violence.
- Develop a safety plan: If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or is in an abusive relationship, there are things to consider when thinking about safety. It may be helpful to create a safety plan or to think about some ways to stay and feel safer.
- Call 911: Domestic violence is a crime. If you or someone you know is being battered, call 911 for immediately for help.
- Exercise your rights: You and anyone you know who may be experiencing domestic violence have the right to go to court and petition for an order of protection.
- Get help for you (and/or you and your family).
There are many shelters dedicated to victims of domestic violence. Be sure to call the Network for Battered Women (800-572-2782) to find the closest location near you. If not choosing a shelter, do call the crisis hotline to assist you. They are here specifically to aid in your needs.
Things to Think About When Creating a Safety Plan
How to get away if there is an emergency
- Be conscious of exits or other escape routes
- Think about options for transportation (car, bus, train, etc.)
Who Can Help
- Friends, family
- Support centers if there are any in your area
- Campus safety or local police
- National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE(4673), the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline, or if you are in a dating or domestic violence situation, the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE(7233)
Where to go
- Friend’s dorm room or apartment
- Relative’s house
- A domestic violence or homeless shelter (if there are not any domestic violence shelters in your area, and you are contemplating leaving the town, you may want to consider going to a homeless shelter)
- The police or campus safety (even if campus safety knows both you and the perpetrator—they are still responsible for doing their jobs)
Important safety note: If the dangerous situation involves a partner, go to the police or a shelter first.
What to Bring
- Important papers and documents: birth certificate, social security card, license, passport, medical records, bills, etc.
- House or dorm room keys, car keys, cash, credit cards, medicine, important numbers, cell phone
- Keep all of these things in an emergency bag
- Hide the bag—best if not in house or car
- If the bag is discovered, can call it a “hurricane”, “tornado” or “fire” bag
- Be aware of rape drugs.
- Try not to leave your drink unattended.
- Only drink from un-opened containers or from drinks you have watched being made and poured.
- Avoid group drinks like punch bowls.
- Cover your drink. It is easy to slip in a small pill even while you are holding your drink. Hold a cup with your hand over the top, or choose drinks that are contained in a bottle and keep your thumb over the nozzle.
- If you feel extremely tired or drunk for no apparent reason, you may have been drugged. Find your friends and ask them to leave with you as soon as possible.
- If you suspect you have been drugged, go to a hospital and ask to be tested.
- Keep track of how many drinks you have had.
- Try to come and leave with a group of people you trust.
- Avoid giving out your personal information (phone number, where you live, etc.). If someone asks for your number, take his/her number instead of giving out yours'.
- Make sure your cell phone is easily accessible and fully charged.
- Be familiar with where emergency phones are installed on the campus.
- Be aware of open buildings where you can use a phone.
- Keep some change accessible just in case you need to use a pay phone.
- Take major, public paths rather than less populated shortcuts.
- Avoid dimly lit places and talk to campus services if lights need to be installed in an area.
- Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.
- Walking back from the library very late at night is sometimes unavoidable, so try to walk with a friend.
- Carry a noisemaker (like a whistle) on your keychain.
- Carry a small flashlight on your keychain.
- If walking feels unsafe, try calling campus security. Many campuses offer safe ride program.
- Keep your doors locked.
- Have extra car necessities (oil, jumper cables, etc.).
- Try not to wait until the last minute to fill your gas tank; always keep it at least half full if you can.
- Have your keys ready when you go to unlock your car.
- Lock your door when you go to sleep and when you are not in the room.
- Keep your window locked (especially if it is easy to enter from the ground).
- If people constantly prop open the main dorm door, talk to an authority about it.
- If your dorm has an elevator, try to stay near the button dashboard when are you riding in it so that you have easy access to the emergency button. Also, if you feel threatened, you can push the button for the next floor and leave immediately instead of waiting for the elevator to reach the floor where you live.
- Avoid isolated areas (stairways, laundry rooms, basement, etc.) when you are alone.
If you have been sexually assaulted, there are some additional steps you can take to help feel safer:
- How to anticipate and respond to a perpetrator's actions: be conscious of places the perpetrator frequents (work schedule, class schedule, where s/he likes to eat, what club meetings s/he has, what sports practices s/he has, etc.).
- Know which people the perpetrator usually hangs out with and what social events s/he likes to attend: plan what you would say and do if you came into contact with him or her.
- Use the resources that your campus offers (sexual assault services, psychological services, health services, campus police force, escort service, etc.).
- If you are concerned about anonymity, use any resources that the neighboring community provides.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable or threatened, leave the situation and go to a safe place.
Remember, no one deserves abuse, and there is no excuse for domestic violence!
Who You Can Call
|Open Arms: Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services||419-420-9261|
|Heidelberg University Campus Security||419-448-2211|
|Heidelberg University Stoner Health Center||419-448-2041|
|National Sexual Assault Hotline||800-656-HOPE|
|National Domestic Violence Hotline||800-799-SAFE|