Sexual assault on college campuses is a problem that is difficult to quantify. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault launched the resource website Not Alone and released a report stating that about 20 percent of college students experience some form of sexual assault during their time in school. However, there is no way to know how accurate that number is. Victims often fail to report incidents of sexual assault due to the trauma of the assault and painful nature of reporting it, which often feels like reliving the assault. As few as one in 20 campus rapes gets reported. This may be largely because of misunderstandings about what constitutes rape; it may also be because victims who speak up about rape often face the stigma that goes with it.
So what can you do to make campuses safer from sexual assault? First and foremost, take responsibility (that means you too, men). Sexual assaults don’t just happen, they are committed by perpetrators. Don’t be that perpetrator; respect others, accept that no means no, and understand that drinking or using drugs or being in a relationship with someone does not mean that it isn’t assault.
Stick With People You Trust
The party over at the frat house may sound like fun, but before you attend it, do some investigating. Are some of your friends available to go with you? What kind of reputation do the guys at the frat house have? If anything you discover raises a red flag, don’t attend. If you do go, keep a death grip on your drink; even take it with you to the bathroom so no one can slip date-rape drugs into it. Also, don’t drink anything that tastes strange or that comes from an open punch bowl.
Control Your Situation
Sticking with people you know is not a sure-fire way to prevent sexual assault. In fact, it is often acquaintances who perpetrate acts of sexual assault. If someone you barely know offers to give you a ride home, say no. Your best bet is to call a taxi or walk home in a group. Keep in mind that alcohol often contributes to sexual assaults, so if you’re ever uncomfortable with the amount of drinking taking place at a party or when you’re on a date, leave.
Respect Yourself and Your Limits (and Those of Others)
Before you go to a party or on a date, know your limits and prepare for any situations that might try to push you beyond them. Practice being firm about saying no. Anyone who you think might stop liking you if you say no is a person that you do not want it your life. Drinking, drugs, dating someone, or the way your dance or dress is not a reason or an excuse for assault — EVER. No one is “asking for it” or “has it coming.” In general, be aware that no matter what, some people won’t respect your boundaries and consider learning some basic self-defense techniques.
Participate in a College Rape-Prevention Program
Some schools offer programs that equip students to better prevent sexual assaults. If such classes are available at your school, attend so you can learn detailed tips on how to protect yourself and be respectful of others. Share what you learn with your friends or invite them to attend with you.
Remember: It is everyone’s responsibility to make campuses as safe as possible. Learn how to protect yourself, respect others, take appropriate precautions, and create an environment that is safer for everyone.