Tips to Stay Safe

Strategies to Help Reduce Risks

There are things all of us can do to be as safe as possible.

Here are some suggested strategies to help to reduce vulnerability to sexual violence, whether it be sexual assault, relationship abuse, stalking, drinking alcohol, or pressure. Also, information regarding consent is provided below.

To reduce the risk of sexual assault

  • Respond assertively. Communicate any discomfort you feel with another person’s behavior. Don’t make excuses. Trust your instincts.
  • Don’t isolate with someone you just met. Always have a safe way to get home. Don’t sleep over because you can’t get home. Especially don’t isolate with someone who tries to get too close, enjoys your discomfort or someone who doesn’t listen or respond when you say “NO.”
  • Avoid drunk sex. Limit your alcohol consumption so that you can protect yourself, prevent aggressive behavior under the influence or help a friend who may need you.
  • Believe in your right to set sexual limits for yourself. Learn how to communicate these limits and how to assert yourself by saying “NO” convincingly when you mean “NO” and “YES” when you mean “YES.”
  • Believe in another person’s right to say “NO.” Be aware of the affect peer pressure has on your decision here. Remember it’s okay not to have sex. Accept that “NO” means “NO.”
  • Date men/women who are your equal. Thinking you have more of a right to your desires can lead to date rape or dating abuse.
  • Remember active consent is necessary every time you have sexual contact with someone. Don’t assume previous permission for sexual contact applies to the current situation (especially when a person is asleep or drunk).
  • Don’t assume behavior is a signal for sex. Thinking someone wants sex is not the same as knowing for sure. Be sure. Communicate.

To reduce the risks and warning signs of abusive relationship

  • Listen to yourself if you are sensing “bad vibes,” especially if you are feeling down on yourself or find yourself afraid in a relationship. Trust your instincts.
  • Know that even one instance of physical, verbal, or emotional violence is dating violence.
  • Cruelty or physical violence to other people, animals, or you, even if it happens just once, is a sure sign that more abuse is to come.
  • Be alert to actions that reduce your personal independence and self-control, such as urging you to give up existing friendships or family connections, telling you either what to wear, or what to say or who to hang out with.
  • Be alert to signs of jealousy and/or possessiveness. These are signs of insecurity, not love.
  • Seek assistance from professionals who can help you learn more about abusive relationships and to explore options that are available to you.

To reduce the risks of stalking

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Do not ignore any threat. Immediately report any instance of stalking to the University Police. Trust your instincts.
  • Keep evidence of any threat or instance of stalking. Keep a daily journal containing information on time, date, and place of each instance, and keep it all in a safe and confidential place. Keep emails, phone messages, letters, and notes. Stalking kits are available in the Title IX Office as provided by CONTACT, and feel free to stop by the Title IX Office located in Old Main, First Floor, Room 107 to pick up one.
  • Don’t downplay a sense of danger by thinking “it will just go away.” If you feel unsafe, you probably are. Stalking behavior typically does not just stop.
  • Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support.
  • Limit the distribution of personal information, including home address and phone numbers, and be wary of any person who seeks to obtain too much personal information about you too quickly. Be careful about what you choose to post on public Web platforms, such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Fully shred all personal information before disposing of anything in the trash.
  • Maintain quick access to critical telephone numbers and the location of safe places.
  • Seek assistance from law enforcement and/or qualified professionals who can help you with safety strategies that are appropriate to your individual circumstance, including assistance with obtaining court issued orders of protection.

To reduce the risks where drinking may be involved

Like many other substances, alcohol can inhibit a person’s physical and mental abilities. In the context of sexual assault, this means that alcohol may make it easier for a perpetrator to commit a crime and can even prevent someone from remembering that the assault occurred.

You can take steps to increase your safety in situations where drinking may be involved. These tips can help you feel more safe and may reduce the risk of something happening. Though it is best to stay safe while under the influence of alcohol, it’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, regardless of whether they were sober or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when it occurred.

  • Keep an eye on your friends. If you are going out in a group, plan to arrive together and leave together. If you decide to leave early, let your friends know. If you’re at a party, check in with them during the night to see how they’re doing. If something doesn’t look right, step in. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about their safety.
  • Have a backup plan. Sometimes plans change quickly. You might realize it’s not safe for you to drive home, or the group you arrived with might decide to go somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Keep the number for a reliable taxi company saved in your phone and on a piece of paper in your wallet and try to have cash on hand. It is also a good idea to download a few different rideshare apps on your phone. Having multiple options helps ensure that you will be able to get a ride home or to a safe location, even if the app you typically use is not functioning. To help keep your phone charged so you can stay in communication with friends or call a ride, consider bringing an external cell phone charger that can be used without an electrical outlet.
  • Know what you’re drinking. Don’t recognize an ingredient? Use your phone to look it up. Consider avoiding large-batch drinks like punches that may have a deceptively high alcohol content. There is no way to know exactly what was used to create these drinks.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, don’t ignore these feelings. Go with your gut. Get somewhere safe and find someone you trust, or call law enforcement.
  • Don’t leave a drink unattended. That includes when you use the bathroom, go dancing, or leave to make a phone call. Either take the drink with you or throw it out. Avoid using the same cup to refill your drink.
  • Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust. This can be challenging in some settings, like a party or a date. If you choose to accept a drink from someone you’ve just met, try to go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
  • Check in with yourself. You might have heard the expression “know your limits.” Whether you drink regularly or not, check in with yourself periodically to register how you feel. If you think you have had too much, ask a trusted friend to help you get water or get home safely. Remember, if someone offers you a drink, you can always say no.
  • Be aware of sudden changes in the way your body feels. Do you feel more intoxicated than you are comfortable with? Some drugs are odorless, colorless and/or tasteless, and can be added to your drink without you noticing. If you feel uncomfortable, tell a friend and have them take you to a safe place. If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and tell the healthcare professionals that you suspect you or a friend have been drugged so they can administer the right tests.

Even if you were consuming alcohol when a sexual assault occurred, remember it was not your fault. You are not alone.

How to Respond if Someone Is Pressuring You

Perpetrators of sexual violence often use tactics, such as guilt or intimidation, to pressure a person into something they do not want to do. It can be upsetting, frightening, or uncomfortable if you find yourself in this situation. Remember that it’s not your fault that the other person is acting this way—they are responsible for their own actions. The following tips may help you exit the situation safely.

  • Remind yourself this isn’t your fault. You did not do anything wrong. It is the person who is pressuring you who is responsible.
  • Trust your gut. Don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do. It doesn’t matter why you don’t want to do something. Simply not being interested is reason enough. Do only what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
  • Have a code word. Develop a code with friends or family that means “I’m uncomfortable” or “I need help.” It could be a series of numbers you can text, like “311.” It might be a phrase you say out loud such as, “I wish we took more vacations.” This way you can communicate your concern and get help without alerting the person who is pressuring you.
  • It’s okay to lie. If you are concerned about angering or upsetting this person, you can lie or make an excuse to create an exit. It may feel wrong to lie, but you are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, scared, or threatened. Some excuses you could use are: needing to take care of a friend or family member, not feeling well, and having to be somewhere else by a certain time. Even excusing yourself to use the bathroom can create an opportunity to get away or to get help. Whatever you need to say to stay safe is okay—even if it may seem embarrassing at the time.
  • Think of an escape route. If you had to leave quickly, how would you do it? Locate the windows, doors, and any others means of exiting the situation. Are there people around who might be able to help you? How can you get their attention? Where can you go when you leave?

If you have to find a way out of a situation where someone is pressuring you, or if something happens that you didn’t consent to, it is not your fault. Take care of yourself, and know you’re not alone.

Information Regarding Consent

While the legal definitions of consent may vary by location and circumstance, the general concept is always the same: Consent is an ongoing process of discussing boundaries and what you’re comfortable with. Let’s get specific about how consent plays out in real life.

What is consent?

Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be clearly and freely communicated. A verbal and affirmative expression of consent can help both you and your partner to understand and respect each other’s boundaries.

Consent cannot be given by individuals who are underage, intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious. If someone agrees to an activity under pressure of intimidation or threat, that isn’t considered consent because it was not given freely. Unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in sexual activity with an employee or student, also mean that consent cannot be freely given.

How does consent work?

When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time for every type of activity. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gives consent for other activities or for the same activity on other occasions. 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. It’s important to discuss boundaries and expectations with your partner prior to engaging in any sexual behavior.

You can change your mind at any time.

You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. Withdrawing consent can sometimes be challenging or difficult to do verbally, so non-verbal cues can also be used to convey this. The best way to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check in periodically, and make sure everyone involved consents before escalating or changing activities.

What is enthusiastic consent?

Enthusiastic consent is a newer model for understanding consent that focuses on a positive expression of consent. Simply put, enthusiastic consent means looking for the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no.” Enthusiastic consent can be expressed verbally or through nonverbal cues, such as positive body language like smiling, maintaining eye contact, and nodding. These cues alone do not necessarily represent consent, but they are additional details that may reflect consent. It is necessary, however, to still seek verbal confirmation. The important part of consent, enthusiastic or otherwise, is checking in with your partner regularly to make sure that they are still on the same page.

Enthusiastic consent can look like this

  • Asking permission before you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”
  • Confirming that there is reciprocal interest before initiating any physical touch.
  • Letting your partner know that you can stop at any time.
  • Periodically checking in with your partner, such as asking “Is this still okay?”
  • Providing positive feedback when you’re comfortable with an activity.
  • 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 (see note below).

Note: Physiological responses like an erection, lubrication, arousal, or orgasm are involuntary, meaning your body might react one way even when you are not consenting to the activity. Sometimes perpetrators will use the fact that these physiological responses occur to maintain secrecy or minimize a survivor’s experience by using phrases such as, “You know you liked it.” In no way does a physiological response mean that you consented to what happened. If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault.

Consent does NOT look like this

  • Refusing to acknowledge “no”
  • A partner who is disengaged, nonresponsive, or visibly upset
  • 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