Risk reduction tips can often take a tone of blaming a reporting party, even unintentionally. Only those who commit sexual violence are responsible for those actions. We offer the tips below solely help you to reduce your risk of experiencing a non-consensual sexual act. Below, suggestions to avoid committing a non-consensual sexual act are also offered:
- If you have limits, make them known as early as possible.
- Tell a sexual aggressor “NO” clearly and firmly.
- Try to remove yourself from the physical presence of a sexual aggressor.
- Find someone nearby and ask for help.
- Take affirmative responsibility for your alcohol intake/drug use and acknowledge that alcohol/drugs lower your sexual inhibitions and may make you vulnerable to someone who views a drunk or high person as a sexual opportunity.
- Give thought to sharing your intimate content, pictures, images and videos with others, even those you may trust. If you do choose to share, clarify your expectations as to how or if those images may be used, shared or disseminated.
- Take care of your friends and ask that they take care of you. A real friend will challenge you if you are about to make a mistake. Respect them when they do.
If you find yourself in the position of being the initiator of sexual behavior, you owe sexual respect to your potential partner. These suggestions may help you to reduce your risk for being accused of sexual misconduct:
- Clearly communicate your intentions to your sexual partner and give them a chance to clearly relate their intentions to you.
- Understand and respect personal boundaries.
- Do not make assumptions about consent; about someone’s sexual availability; about whether they are attracted to you; about how far you can go or about whether they are physically and/or mentally able to consent. Your partner’s consent should be affirmative and continuous. If there are any questions or ambiguity then you do not have consent.
- Mixed messages from your partner are a clear indication that you should stop, defuse any sexual tension and communicate better. You may be misreading them. They may not have figured out how far they want to go with you yet. You must respect the timeline for sexual behaviors with which they are comfortable.
- Do not take advantage of someone’s drunkenness or altered state, even if they willingly consumed alcohol or substances.
- Realize that your potential partner could feel intimidated or coerced by you. You may have a power advantage simply because of your gender or physical presence. Do not abuse that power.
- Do not share intimate content, pictures, images and videos that are shared with you.
- Understand that consent to some form of sexual behavior does not automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual behavior.
- Silence, passivity, or non-responsiveness cannot be interpreted as an indication of consent. Read your potential partner carefully, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal communication and body language.
Remember: Even if you were consuming alcohol when an assault occurred, know that is it not your fault.
Resources that can provide support and complete confidentiality include:
- Staff members at the Counseling and Wellness Center
- Campus Chaplain
- Campus Rabbi
- Victim Services Center of Montgomery County, Inc.
Other individuals on campu that can provide information and support, but are not confidential (meaning they must refer survivors to Title IX resources), include:
- Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator
- Staff members in the Dean of Students Office
- Staff members in the Residence Life Office
For more information, please visit Sexual Misconduct Resources.
Below are some suggestions about how to support someone affected by sexual or gender-based violence. They are only suggestions and serve as examples. Remember: believe them, listen to them, and speak from your heart.
Things to do:
- Assure them it is not their fault
- Suggest they talk to someone
- Assure them that they are not alone
- Be sensitive of their need for privacy
- Stay calm and be patient
- Offer to go with them to report the incident
- Use active listening skills
Things to avoid:
- Avoid asking questions out of curiosity
- Try not to express shock, disgust, anger, or judgment
- Do not press for details
- Do not minimize, deny, or blame them
- Try not to touch them without their permission
- Do not put word in their mouth or tell them how they are feeling
- Do not make decisions for them
- Avoid making promises or guarantees (“you’re going, to be fine,” or “your family will be supportive”)
For more tips on how to respond to a survivor, visit RAINN.