Risk reduction tips can often take a victim-blaming tone, even unintentionally. With no intention to victim-blame, and with recognition that only those who commit sexual violence are responsible for those actions, these suggestions may nevertheless help you to reduce your risk experiencing a non-consensual sexual act.
Risk Reduction Strategies
- If you have limits, make them known as early as possible.
- Tell a sexual aggressor "NO" clearly and firmly.
- Try to remove yourself from the physical presence of someone who makes you feel uncomfortable or seems sexually aggressive.
- Find someone nearby and ask for help.
- Take affirmative responsibility for your alcohol intake/drug use and acknowledge that alcohol/drugs lower your sexual inhibitions and may make you vulnerable to someone who views a drunk or high person as a sexual opportunity.
- Take care of your friends and ask that they take care of you. A real friend will challenge you if you are about to make a mistake. Respect them when they do.
- Make others earn your trust. Don't assume new friends will definitely have your back or will always have your best interests in mind.
- Do not spend time alone with someone you do not know well.
- Watch your drinks. Do not accept drinks from people you don't know or drink beverages you did not open yourself. Don't share or exchange drinks with anyone and do not consume drinks from "common" containers such as punch bowls. Do not leave your drink unattended.
- Make plans and be prepared when going out. Have a backup plan in case someone gets separated from the group or their phone dies and know how you are safely getting home.
There are many things we can do to reduce the risk of rape, however it is important to understand that even someone who practices good risk reduction can still experience a sexual assault.
If you find yourself in the position of being the initiator of sexual behavior, you owe sexual respect to your potential partner. These suggestions may help you to reduce your risk for being accused of sexual misconduct:
- Clearly communicate your intentions to your sexual partner and give them a chance to clearly relate their intentions to you.
- Understand and respect personal boundaries.
- DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about consent; about someone's sexual availability; about whether they are attracted to you; about how far you can go or about whether they are physically and/or mentally able to consent. If there are any questions or ambiguity then you DO NOT have consent.
- Mixed messages from your partner are a clear indication that you should stop, defuse any sexual tension and communicate better. You may be misreading them. They may not have figured out how far they want to go with you yet. You must respect the timeline for sexual behaviors with which they are comfortable.
- Don't take advantage of someone's drunkenness or drugged state, even if they did it to themselves.
- Realize that your potential partner could be intimidated by you, or fearful. You may have a power advantage simply because of your age, social status, gender, or size. Don't abuse that power.
- Understand that consent to some form of sexual behavior does not automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual behavior.
- Silence and passivity cannot be interpreted as an indication of consent. Read your potential partner carefully, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal communication and body language.