College students are in one of the most vulnerable age groups for sexual assault.
According to multiple studies, female students are at an increased risk for sexual assault during the first few weeks of their freshmen year. The time from the beginning of the semester to Thanksgiving break is known as the “red zone” — a period of vulnerability.
Most college students who are sexually assaulted are victimized by someone they know. Although stranger rapes occur, acquaintance rape is the most prevalent form of sexual violence among college students.
There is a common misconception that acquaintance rape is not as serious, not as criminal and not as traumatic to the victim as stranger rape. Some people think it isn’t “real rape.”
However, rape is a felony crime, regardless of the offender’s relationship to the victim. Acquaintance rape is just as serious and just as devastating to the victim.
Although the only true way to prevent rape is to stop the rapist, here are some steps to avoid or help to prevent acquaintance rape:
Know your sexual intentions and limits and communicate them clearly. You have the right to say “no” to any unwanted sexual contact. Back up your words with your body language. If you are uncertain about what you want, ask your partner to respect your feelings. Don’t give mixed messages.
Your partner cannot read your mind. Be verbal and say what you are feeling. Tell the person how far you want to go, what you want and don’t want to do and when you want to stop.
Remember that some people think drinking heavily, wearing certain clothing or agreeing to be alone with them indicates a willingness to have sex. Be careful to communicate your limits and intentions clearly in such situations.
Trust your “gut” feelings. If you start to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, listen to your feelings and act on them. Get yourself out of the situation. Call for help.
Ask for help or “make a scene” if you feel threatened. If you are being pressured or forced into sexual activity against your will, let the other person know how you feel and get out of the situation, even if it’s awkward and you embarrass the other person.
Be especially careful in situations involving the use of drugs or alcohol. They can make you less aware of danger signs and less able to communicate clearly. Be especially aware when you are in a new situation or with people you don’t know well.
Go to parties or clubs with friends you can trust and agree to “look out” for one another. At parties where there is drinking or drugs, appoint a “designated sober person” who will look out for the others in the group by regularly checking on them. Leave parties with people you know.
Listen carefully to the person you are with in sexual situations. If your partner says “no” to sexual contact or their body language tells you they are unwilling, stop. If your partner was willing at first, but now doesn’t want to go any further, stop. If you think you are getting a “mixed message,” or you are not sure what your partner wants stop.
Don’t assume you know what another person wants. For example, don’t automatically assume that just because a person gets drunk or agrees to be alone with you, they want to have sex. Don’t assume that just because someone has had sex with you before, she or he is willing to have sex with you again. And don’t assume that when a partner consents to kissing or other sexual touching, he or she is willing to have sexual intercourse.
Get verbal consent from your partner. Be aware that if you have sex with someone who is unable to give consent or is unable to resist, you are committing rape or sexual assault. If you have sex with someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, “passed out,” asleep, or unable to say “no,” you may be guilty of rape or sexual assault.
Resist peer pressure to do things you don’t want to do. Don’t participate in violent or criminal acts or get involved in any activity that makes you feel uncomfortable. Don’t go along with people who are abusing another person.
Get involved if you think someone else might be in trouble. If you see someone who could be about to commit rape or become a victim, help them