With the statistic that nearly one in five women will be the victim of a sexual assault and that women in college are the most vulnerable, college partying and dating can sometimes be tricky and unsafe to say the least.
Over the course of this past school year I have had the immense pleasure of speaking at eight different colleges about sexual assault prevention. I’ve spoken mostly to women, although most of the events are open to all genders.
Before getting into any physical self-defense moves, it’s always important to start with a conversation on self confidence. What does that have to do with sexual assault? In certain situations, assault can be avoided by a woman asserting herself and powerfully communicating her boundaries without even having to use physical self-defense. This is assuming the perpetrator is logical and somewhat sober. I’m fully aware that we should also be teaching guys not to be rapists and not to be forceful.
Awareness is also a major focus for sexual assault prevention on college campuses and beyond. Whether you are walking back to your dorm or off campus apartment, or heading out for a jog, you should focus on being fully present and aware of your surroundings and other people in them. Keep your eyes open and observe everything in your path and your ears open too. That means off of your cellphones and no headphones in your ears. Being prepared with a SABRE personal alarm on your keychain and/or a pepper spray in your hand is another way to bring awareness to your safety. It says: I may be scared but I am prepared to fight back if necessary.
Situational awareness is just as important and simply means being aware of yourself in relation to other people, places and things around you at the moment. While at a party, bar or out on a deserted street, ask yourself, “Am I practicing safety? Am I fully present? Have I had too much to drink? Are my friends still around and do we have a plan on how we are getting home together?” If any of those answers sound like you may be in a dangerous situation then change the circumstance immediately. Get your friends to take you home. Call an on-campus escort. Call the police (depending on the situation). In these cases, do NOT rely on the kindness of strangers to get you home or to take care of you.
Every college student should know what resources are available to him or her to help prevent sexual assault. He or she should also know resources in place to help support them if such an incident has taken place. Every school has different programs in place. Since I have been traveling to schools all over the country the most unique group I’ve met so far is called Devils in the Bedroom at Arizona State University. They help educate students on sexual safety, consent, etc. in order to decrease sexual violence on campus and beyond. If you don’t know what kind of hotlines, sexual assault prevention groups, or escort services your college provides, find out by asking your RA or contacting your wellness center.
Whether you are in college or not, a universal resource for anyone is RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. It’s a toll-free hotline that you can call 24/7 and get help, advice and even free counseling. The number is: 1-800-656-HOPE.