Kimberly Rowan No Comments

Student Safety and Reducing Sexual Assault Risk

What Students Can Do

Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender or age. Victims are not responsible for the assault. In fact, predators seek power and control over others, which fuels their actions.

While victims are never responsible for the assault, individuals can take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of attack.

Basic Safety Guidelines

  • Provide information: Students should inform friends and family about their plans, which may include a taxi ride, parties, a late study session, or a date. Important information to provide includes dates and times, names, phone numbers, addresses, and license plate numbers.
  • Share your location: Most smartphones offer the option to share your location with other people for a set amount of time or indefinitely. If individuals end up in a compromising situation, friends or family can provide local authorities with their location.
  • Watch your drink: Predators often slip drugs into their victims’ drinks. Students can reduce the risk of this happening by watching who pours their drink, keeping their drink close, and only accepting sealed drinks.
  • Know your personal limits: Students must identify their sexual boundaries, which can help establish clear communication with partners and reduce compromising situations. No matter the circumstances, students always maintain the right to say no or change their minds.
  • Have a backup plan: Having a backup plan can increase students’ safety. A portable phone charger, emergency cash, jumper cables, and pepper spray can all come in handy.
  • Avoid traveling alone: Students should consider walking to and from class with a buddy, especially at night. Commuters often travel alone. However, carpooling with other students can increase safety and reduce gas expenses. Universities often provide campus police escorts to ensure students’ safety. Using the buddy system at parties and social gatherings is also a good precaution.
  • Explore campus resources: Students can often request campus police escorts. Schools may also provide shuttle buses, emergency phones, and self-defense workshops. Students should also locate campus police and health centers.
  • Use social media with caution: Students often use social media to share their experiences with loved ones. Instead of immediately posting pictures, students should wait until they leave an event to prevent predators from following them. Social media privacy settings can also reduce the risk of sexual assault.
  • Stay secure in dorms and apartments: While dorms and apartments contain fewer entry points than houses, students need to make sure they lock their doors, especially at night. Dorms and apartment complexes also keep extra keys. Students may want to purchase inside door jammers, which prevent even unlocked doors from opening.
  • Utilize multiple routes and well-lit areas: Campuses offer multiple routes to get to the same destination. Individuals who switch routes keep predators from predicting victims’ locations at specific times. While dark shortcuts reduce travel time, students should also stay in well-lit areas at night.

Sexual Assault in Relationships

Terms referring to sexual violence in relationships include intimate partner rape, intimate partner sexual violence, domestic violence, or marital rape. Sexual violence in relationships often transpires alongside emotional or physical abuse. Understanding common warning signs can help victims identify unhealthy behavior and seek help.

For instance, aggressors often attempt to create distance between their partner and their partner’s family. Other abusive partner behaviors include extreme jealousy, insults, destroying property, and preventing a partner from going to work or school. Aggressors may also threaten to harm their partner and take their children away.

Victims of intimate partner sexual violence may find it challenging to press charges for multiple reasons. Victims may feel concerned about the well-being of their children if they come forward. Furthermore, partners financially dependent on the abuser may feel trapped. Victims should not feel responsible for the predator’s actions.

Several organizations exist to help survivors, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

  • Contact a support line

    If you’re unsure how to get away from an abusive partner, contact a support hotline for assistance. Loveisrespect and the National Domestic Abuse Hotline both provide 24/7 phone assistance.

  • Don’t blame yourself

    Self-blame is extremely common in abusive relationships. It can be easy to feel trapped in your situation. However, your partner’s abusive actions are absolutely not your fault or a result of weakness on your part. Keep this in mind when you seek help.

  • List safe places

    Know where you can go in case you need to get away from an abusive partner. This might include a campus counseling center, a trusted friend’s dorm room, a survivors’ shelter, or a residence hall staff office.

  • Document hostile communications

    It can be emotionally painful to save threatening messages that your partner sends. However, voice messages, emails, IMs, and other hostile communications can be immensely useful in demonstrating a history of abuse when you speak with counselors or authorities.

  • Seek counseling

    Virtually all college campuses have on-site counselors who are trained to help with domestic violence and other forms of sexual assault. If you can’t find a way to contact a campus counselor directly, ask a residence advisor, professor, or academic advisor to help you explore these resources.

  • Call the police

    If you are being threatened with assault, find a safe place, and call the police immediately.

    After an Assault

    Sexual violence can leave lasting effects on victims, including depression, suicidal thoughts, and drug use. Ninety-four percent of women experience PTSD immediately after the rape, and 30% continue to experience PTSD nine months after being assaulted. Victims can access multiple online resources for support.

    After an Assault: Immediate Steps

    Get to a safe place: Victims of sexual violence often experience fear and disorientation after sexual violence. However, victims need to immediately leave the location where the attack occurred and find a safe place.

    Document what happened: Predators often know their victims. Therefore, survivors should compile proof of communication if applicable. While difficult to consider, victims should not change their clothing or shower because authorities can use kits to confirm the predator’s DNA.

    Reach out for help and support: Victims who go straight to the hospital can access help from local authorities to file a report. However, victims can also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline, where a trained representative can provide assistance and direction. Students who feel uncomfortable calling the police can use their smartphone to report assault through apps, such as JDoe and Callisto.

    Seek medical attention: Receiving medical attention provides multiple benefits to victims. For instance, health practitioners can collect samples to confirm the identity of predators. In fact, many facilities only allow 72-96 hours for collecting forensic evidence. Healthcare facilities also offer to screen for STIs or medicine that can prevent HIV. Medical practitioners can also help drugged victims.

    Students who experience sexual violence outside of rape should still seek medical assistance. Responses to sexual violence include suicide and severe anxiety.