Prevention and Risk Reduction
The only person who can ever truly prevent sexual violence from occurring is the perpetrator. The responsibility for preventing an incident of sexual violence is the perpetrator’s responsibility alone; sexual violence is never a survivor’s fault or the result of a survivor’s inaction. There is no action or choice you can make to truly prevent sexual violence from happening to you, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
- Set sexual limits. You have control of your body, and no one has the right to force you to do anything, or to do anything with you or to you, without your effective consent.
- Communicate your limits clearly, and try to be assertive. Polite approaches may be misunderstood or ignored, and passivity is often incorrectly interpreted as permission. State your feelings in a simple, honest, and direct fashion. Use phrases like “Stop,” “I don’t like what you’re doing,” “What you’re doing is making me uncomfortable,” “You’re hurting me,” or “I don’t want you to touch me there.”
- Be aware of what is happening around you, and trust your instincts. Avoid secluded places or other situations in which you could be viewed as vulnerable. Be aware that alcohol or drugs may impair this judgment. If you ever feel that something isn’t right, trust yourself and find a way to leave the situation.
- Consider taking a self-defense class or workshop. At Lewis & Clark, you can take “Self Defense for Women” as a semester-long PE class. If you don’t identify as a woman, consider taking Poekoelan, Aikido, or any of the other martial arts courses offered.
On Dates or in Social Situations
- Make sure you are not dependent on someone for a ride home. Carry money for a taxi, take your Trimet pass, or bring the telephone number of a friend who would give you a ride home. Think carefully about accepting a ride from someone you don’t know, or going home with someone you’ve just met.
- Be careful with your drinks. Pour or open your drinks yourself, and don’t leave your drink unattended once it is open.
- Use a buddy system. Monitor your friends, and make sure they monitor you. If a friend seems intoxicated after having only a few drinks, or after having only non-alcoholic drinks, get him or her to someplace safe. If they lose consciousness, seek medical attention. Tell your friends where you are going and who you are going with if you leave the common area at a party, or if you go out on a single date.
To Avoid Becoming a Perpetrator
- Sexual assault is a crime and a choice. There is no excuse for taking any action involving another person without their explicit, effective consent.
- Know how your partner feels. Do not assume you know your partner’s comfort level in intimate situations. You and your partner may not want the same degree of intimacy. If you are confused about the messages you are getting, ask for clarification. Do not pressure your partner into any sexual activity.
- If your partner is not comfortable with a sexual activity, do not feel rejected. Your partner is not rejecting you as a person; they are expressing a decision about participating in a single act at a specific time.
- Be clear that sexual excitement does not justify forced sex. Your partner may consent to some activities and not to others, or may consent and then change their mind. Your partner may show physical signs of arousal, but these physical responses do not imply consent to any action.
- Be clear that desire for affection is not the same as desire for sex. Your partner may love you and not want to have sex. Your partner may want to date you and not have sex. Your partner may want to participate in some sexual activities, but not others. Desire for and consent to one activity does not imply consent to another.