Sexual Assault Risk Reduction Strategies
A Guide for the Cornell College Community
But I was at a party with friends...
Most sexual assaults among college students involve people who know each other, and the majority involve use of alcohol or other drugs. Whether someone is sober or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, if they are sexually assaulted they are not responsible for the assault.
Anyone can be sexually assaulted, and there are no sure means to prevent sexual assault because the only people who can prevent sexual assault are those who perpetrate it. However, you can take steps to lessen the likelihood that you or your friends will be assaulted or will assault someone.
Here are some tips to consider when you go out:
- Know where you are going and speak up if you are uncomfortable with the plans.
- Communicate with your partner: NO MEANS NO;
CLEAR verbal or non-verbal CONSENT MEANS YES.
- Know that drinking and drug use can impair your judgment. You might not be able to make the same decision you would make if you were sober.
- If you drink, drink responsibly: eat a full meal before going out, have a glass of water between each drink, stick to one type of alcoholic beverage, know your limits and don’t go beyond them, have a designated driver, and don’t let anyone else make the decision of how much you will drink.
- Only drink something that you poured yourself or that comes in a pre-sealed container, and don’t drink something that has been left unattended. Mixed drinks can have more alcohol in them than you might want to drink. Also, drugs (e.g., Rohypnol, GHB) can be dissolved in a drink, causing side effects such as nausea, dizziness, disorientation, &/or loss of consciousness.
- Use the buddy system and look out for each other. Don’t go anywhere with someone you don’t know well. If you do leave a party with a new friend, tell the friends you came with where you are going and when you are coming back. If you are worried about a friend’s safety, tell them.
Reduce the Risk of Committing Sexual Assault
- Listen carefully. Take time to hear what the other person has to say. If you feel they are not being direct or are giving you a “mixed message” ask for clarification.
- Don’t fall for the cliché “if they say no, they really mean yes.” If your partner says “no” to sexual contact, believe them and stop. If they seem uncomfortable or uncertain, stop and check in. It is never acceptable to force sexual activity, or to pressure, coerce, or manipulate someone into having sex, no matter the circumstances. The campus has employed an affirmative consent policy. Yes means yes.
- Don’t make assumptions about a person’s behavior. Don’t assume that someone wants to have sex because of they way they are dressed, they drink (or drink too much), or agree to go to your room. Don’t assume that if someone has had sex with you before they are willing to do so again. Also don’t assume that if your partner consents to kissing or other sexual activities, they are consenting to all sexual activities. Obtain clear consent for each sexual activity.
- Be aware that having sex with someone who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent is rape. If you have sex with someone who is incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs, passed out, or is otherwise incapable of saying no or knowing what is going on around them, you may be guilty of rape.
- Remember sexual assault is a crime punishable via campus conduct, criminal, and civil proceedings.
- Be careful in group situations; resist pressure from friends to participate in violent acts.
- Get involved if you believe that someone is at risk. If you see someone in trouble or someone pressuring another person, don’t be afraid to intervene - or get help to do so.
Reduce the Risk of Being Sexually Assaulted
- Know your sexual intentions and limits. You have the right to say “NO” to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are uncertain of what you want, ask your partner to respect your feelings.
- Communicate with your partner. Do not assume that someone will automatically know how you feel or will eventually “get the message” without you having to say anything. Just as it’s okay to say “NO” to unwanted activities, it’s okay - and important - to give clear consent to activities in which you would like to engage. Avoid giving “mixed messages”; back up your words with a firm voice and clear body language (e.g., if you consent, give a big smile and say “YES!”).
- Be aware that some people mistakenly believe drinking, dressing provocatively, or going to your or someone else’s room means you are willing to have sex. Be clear up front about your limits in such situations.
- Listen to your gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think you might be at risk, leave the situation immediately and go to a safe place.
- If you feel you are being pressured or coerced into sexual activity, you have a right to state your feelings &/or leave the situation. If you are concerned about the other person becoming angry, it is okay to make up an excuse to leave or create time to get help.
- Attend large parties with friends you trust. Agree to “look out” for one another. Leave with the group, not alone. Avoid leaving with people that you don’t know very well.
- Attend a workshop on sexual assault risk reduction or take a self-defense course such as the RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) class offered in Mt. Vernon and at other campuses and cities across the nation to learn additional general safety and risk reduction strategies.
If someone you know has been sexually violated
- Be supportive, listen to them.
- Share your feelings of concern for them.
- Communicate to your friend that they are not responsible for the violation.
- Make sure your friend has a safe place to stay.
- Allow your friend to regain control by making their own decisions.
- Make yourself available to accompany your friend to a helping resource (e.g., hospital, Health Center, Counseling Center, The Cottage).
- Realize that you, too, have been affected and seek support if you need it.
- Attempt to seek revenge.
- Make jokes.
- Be angry with your friend.
- Force your friend to talk and/or take control from them.
- Ask your friend how they could “let this happen”.
- Assume you understand how your friend feels.
- Discuss the incident with others unless you have permission from your friend.
Additional information regarding what to do in the event of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct may be found in the brochure “What to do after Sexual Assault or Other Sexual Misconduct Occurs: A Guide for the Cornell College Community” or on-line.