Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault. While there is no absolute concrete way to prevent sexual assault, there are steps you can take as individuals and community members to reduce risk, challenge attitudes and beliefs about sexual violence, and increase awareness about warning signs.
Often people think that sexual assaults are committed only by strangers; this is actually far from the truth. In fact, 90 percent of rape survivors on college campuses know their assailants (BARCC.org)
Visit Sexual Assault Information for statistics about sexual assault on college campus and resources on sexual assault.
Learn about consent for sexual activity and ask for it
- Consent is a voluntary, sober, informed and mutual verbal agreement.
- Consent cannot be legally given or obtained when either person involved is not sober.
- Consent is active—it cannot be coerced or forced.
- Consent is a process.
- Consent is never implied or assumed--the absence of a “NO” DOES NOT mean “Yes”.
- Ask for consent before you act.
- If you are unsure if consent has been given, ask again. Check in with your partner.
- Providing consent ahead of time does not mean a person can’t change their mind.
- Consent is more than a yes or no answer. It’s about feelings. Ask your partner open-ended questions. “I’d really like…how does that sound?” “How does this feel?” “What would you like to do?” Listen to your partner’s response, respect what they are saying.
Practice communication and listening skills
- Define your personal boundaries around sexual behavior and practice telling them to yourself.
- Talk to potential partners directly about your boundaries and desires.
- Ask them to share theirs.
- Actively listen to your partner by reflecting what they say and asking questions.
- Make decisions together about sexual activity.
Get empowered in your relationships
- The Bentley Peer Educators from the Office of Counseling and Student Development can facilitate workshops on healthy relationships for students on campus. Please contact Stephanie Kendall (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Brenda Hawks (email@example.com) for further information.
- The following websites may also be helpful:
Challenge incorrect beliefs about rape and sexual violence
Sometimes people hold incorrect beliefs or assumptions about rape or sexual violence. Always keep in mind…
- The way someone, acts, dresses or talks is never an invitation for an assault.
- Drinking alcohol is not an invitation for sex.
- It is very rare that a report of sexual assault is untrue.
- Most survivors know their assailant.
- Many assaults are planned.
- Rape does not discriminate – anyone can be raped regardless of gender, race or social status.
- Consenting to sex one time, does not mean universal consent for future interactions.
- No means No!
Know the warning signs for potential sexual violence
Watch out for people who…
- Do not listen to you or respect what you say.
- Ignore personal boundaries by standing too close, or touching you without permission.
- Encourage you to drink more alcohol than you decide to.
- Use hostile or derogatory language when talking about partners or potential sexual partners.
- Make decisions without considering your opinion.
- Try to make you or someone else feel bad if you resist their sexual desires or comments.
- Act possessive or jealous.
- Have unrealistic expectations of gender roles in relationships.
- Drink excessively.
Be an active bystander
Bystanders can serve in several purposes in preventing sexual assault. You can be an active bystander regardless of your age, gender, and experience. At Bentley, we call this “Social Spotting”. If you see or hear something that is potentially risky or harmful to another person, DO SOMETHING! Identify ways you can safely intervene. This can include speaking up, stepping in to help a peer, or calling for help. Did you know that Bentley offers leadership trainings on how to be an active “bystander.” Visit our “Get Involved Page”(insert link) for more information about “Spot On” Bystander Training.
Take care of yourself and your friends
- In social situations, be aware of your surroundings and how to get out of the situation if you need to.
- If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware of your drink, where it came from, how much alcohol is in it. If you don’t know, don’t drink it.
- Be aware of how alcohol affects you. Ask your friends to intervene if you act inappropriately toward others while drinking.
- If you choose to engage in sexual activity, be sure you and the other person are sober so you can ask for and grant consent. Better to have assurance ahead of time than risk harming someone.
- Don’t make jokes about sexual assault or rape and intervene if you hear someone else making jokes. Not only will you protect those who have been assaulted previously, you’ll also help change dangerous societal beliefs about sexual assault. Most importantly, listen and respect when someone doesn’t say “Yes.”
Have a plan
- When you go to a party or event, go with friends and make a plan to leave with them too.
- Be aware of who you are with and where your friends are.
- Have a code word or signal to use with your friends as an exit strategy.
- Have a plan for transportation.
- Carry cash and an ID.
- If you choose to drink, set a limit before you go out.