Reducing Your Risk of Sexual Assault
There are many steps you can take to help reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted. We also have some tips on how to look out for buddies and keep them safe.
Active Bystander Intervention
One of the most effective methods of preventing sexual assault is bystander intervention.
What is Active Bystander Intervention?
- This approach encourages people to identify situations that might lead to a sexual assault and then safely intervene to prevent an assault from occurring.
- Active Bystander Intervention discourages victim blaming by switching the focus of prevention to what a community of people can do collectively.
- The approach also allows for a change in cultural expectations by empowering everyone to say or do something when they see inappropriate or harmful behavior
- This method of intervention places the responsibility of sexual assault prevention on both men and women.
How to Intervene
There are three components to Active Bystander Intervention:
- Recognizing when to intervene. Some people might be concerned that they are being encouraged to place themselves in jeopardy to stop crimes in progress. This is not the case. There are many situations and events that occur prior to a sexual assault that are appropriate for intervention. Active bystander intervention encourages people to watch for those behaviors and situations that appear to be inappropriate, coercive and harassing.
- Considering whether the situation needs attention. The Department of Defense has chosen to link “duty” with sexual assault prevention. Service members need to understand that it is their moral duty to pay attention to situations that put their friends and co-workers at risk.
- Deciding if there is a responsibility to act. A great deal of research has been done to understand the conditions that encourage people to get involved. There are situational factors that influence a person’s willingness to act. These include the presence of other witnesses, the uncertainty of the situation, the apparent level of danger or risk to the victim, and the setting of the event. Personal characteristics of the bystander also contribute to a decision to act.
Help Someone You Know
When choosing what form of assistance to use, there are a variety of ways to intervene. Some of them are direct, and some of them are less obvious to the perpetrator:
- Making up an excuse to get him/her out of a potentially dangerous situation
- Letting a friend or co-worker know that his or her actions may lead to serious consequences
- Never leaving a his/her side, despite the efforts of someone to get him/her alone or away from you
- Using a group of friends to remind someone behaving inappropriately that his or her behavior should be respectful
- Taking steps to curb someone’s use of alcohol before problems occur
- Calling the authorities when the situation warrants
Understanding how to safely implement the choice. Safety is paramount in active bystander intervention. Usually, intervening in a group is safer than intervening individually. Also, choosing a method of intervention that de-escalates the situation is safer than attempting a confrontation. However, there is no single rule that can account for every situation. Service members must use good judgment and always put safety first.
- Information on Bystander Intervention was provided by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office from: www.sapr.mil
Risk Reduction and Prevention Safety
Common sense, situational awareness and trusting your instincts will reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted. Following the tips below may decrease your chances of being attacked:
- If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Do not leave your beverage unattended or accept a drink from an open container.
- When you are with someone, communicate clearly to ensure he or she knows your limits from the beginning. Both verbal and nonverbal (body language) communication can be used to ensure the message is understood.
- If you go on a date with someone you do not know very well, tell a close friend what your plans are.
You have the right to say "No" even if you:
- First say “Yes,” and then change your mind
- Have had sex with this partner before
- Have been kissing or "making out"
- Are wearing what is perceived to be “provocative” clothing
- Always have extra money to get home. Have a plan for someone you can call if you need help.
- If you feel uncomfortable, scared or pressured, act quickly to end the situation. Say "Stop it" and leave or call for help.
- When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, watch out for each other and leave together.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Do not allow yourself to be isolated with a person you do not know or trust.
- Travel with a friend or in a group.
- Walk only in lighted areas after dark.
- Keep the doors to homes, barracks and cars locked.
- Know where the phone is located.
As with any violent crime, there’s nothing you can do to guarantee that you will not be a victim of sexual assault.
If you are sexually assaulted, remember that it is not your fault.
There are resources available to you 24/7 through Safe Helpline. Visit the Online Helpline or call 877-995-5247 (the phone number is the same inside the U.S. or via the Defense Switched Network (DSN)).
We value your feedback! Please let us know if the information on this page was: