Risk Reduction and Prevention


Bystander Intervention

The only person responsible for committing sexual assault is a perpetrator, but all of us have the ability to look out for each other's safety. Whether it's giving someone a safe ride home from a party or directly confronting a person who is engaging in threatening behavior, anyone can help prevent sexual violence.

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 to keep one another safe.  
  • 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.
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 and to intervene if necessary.
  • 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.

Understand 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.

If you’ve experienced sexual assault, you’re not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or chat online.

Please note, information on Bystander Intervention was provided by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office from www.sapr.mil

Safety Planning

For many people who have been impacted by sexual assault, current and long-term safety can be an ongoing concern. Safety planning is about brainstorming ways to stay safe that may also help reduce the risk of future harm. It can include planning for a future crisis, considering your options, and making decisions about your next steps. Finding ways to stay and feel safer can be an important step towards healing, and these plans and actions should not increase the risk of being hurt.

Safety planning when someone is hurting you:
  • Lean on a support network. Having someone you can reach out to for support can be an important part of staying safe and recovering. Find someone you trust who could respond to a crisis if you needed their help.
  • Become familiar with safe places. Learn more about safe places near you such as a local base/installation or civilian resource [link to: https://safehelpline.org/search.cfm] or a friend/family member’s house. Learn the routes and commit them to memory.
  • Keep computer safety in mind. If you think someone might be monitoring your computer use, consider regularly clearing your cache, history, and cookies. You could also use a different computer at a friend’s house or a public library.
  • Create a code word. It might be a code between you and your children that means “get out,” or with your support network that means “I need help.”
  • Prepare an excuse. Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times or for existing situation that might become dangerous. Have these on hand in case you need to get away quickly.

If you are in a domestic violence situation and need help, the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) is a base/installation resource available to you. You can use the installation locator to locate FAP points of contact on your installation. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website to learn more about safety planning.

If you’ve experienced sexual assault, you’re not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or chat online.

What Consent Looks Like

The laws about consent vary by state and situation. It can make the topic confusing, but you don’t have to be a legal expert to understand how consent plays out in real life.
 
To watch an interesting take on consent, click here
 
What is consent? 

Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent, and some of those are discussed below. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries.
 
How does consent work in real life?

When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.
 
You can change your mind at any time. You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. It’s important to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. The best way to ensure both parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it.
 
Positive consent can look like this:
  • Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”
  • Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”
  • Using physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level.
It does NOT look like this:
  • Refusing to acknowledge “no.”
  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more.
  • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state.
  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol.
  • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation.
  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past.
If you’ve experienced sexual assault, you’re not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or chat online.
 

Please note that content on this site does not constitute medical advice and Safe Helpline is not a medical expert. If after reading this information you have further questions, please contact a local doctor or hospital.