April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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1 in four females and 1 in 6 males will become victims of sexual violence by the time they reach the age of 18.  April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and it’s a perfect time to begin much needed preparation to help you avoid becoming a part of that horrific statistic.

As a rape survivor myself, I wish someone would have taken the time to sit me down and explain that there were things I could do to protect myself. I was raped at a party with my closest friends.  I was surrounded by people I trusted. Yet, I woke up to find that a person I knew and trusted had taken advantage of my body while I was blacked out drunk.  I did what so many of you will do or have already done; I drank too much and left myself vulnerable to attack.  The rape itself wasn’t my fault as no one has the right to have sex with me without my consent.  And guess what, you cannot give consent while you’re drunk or under the influence of another substance. Sexual assault took away my innocence, my hope, my spirit, my self-esteem and my self-worth.  It destroyed my whole sense of being and took me years to heal and become a survivor not a victim.

Our parents do a great job of teaching us many of the important safety lessons we need while growing up.  We learn about not talking to strangers when we are little, to designate a driver once we reach driving and the legal drinking age, but when was the last time your parents taught you how to prevent sexual assault?

As females, unfortunately we are the most vulnerable to these types of crimes and must be vigilant about safeguarding our bodies. Did you know the minute you step foot on a college campus, you become four times more likely to be sexually assaulted?   The statistics are stacked against us but there are some things you can do to help lessen the risk of being harmed. The following are tips that will help you do just that.  Take the time to invest in yourself and consider doing these simple things.

1.)   Always travel in numbers.-Try to never walk alone at night or in places that are isolated.  If you don’t have a friend to walk with, there are always security officers or peers who can walk you home after a late night. If you must walk alone, try to find well-lit areas.  If you live on a college campus, ask your resident assistant for the phone number to call and program it into your cell phone. Carry a whistle on your key chain or with you at all times; that way you can make noise if someone does try and grab you or approach you.

2.)   Designate a sober sister– Designating a sober driver is a very important thing to do when you and your friends go out drinking.  But on college campuses, many times walking is the preferred method of travel. It is still important, if not more important in college, to designate one of your friends to stay sober each night you go out.  That way the sober sister can watch over everyone else to ensure everyone in your group of friends makes it home safely.

3.)   State your intensions to your friends This may sound odd but let your friends know what your intensions are for the night.  Do you plan to get drunk?  Have you ever played drinking games?  Do you know how alcohol affects you? Have you blacked out before? Do you plan to hook up with anyone?  If others know what your intensions are they can be in a better position to help you should something happen that you are not wanting.

4.)   Take a basic or advanced self-defense class– Even though most sexual assaults happen without force and by someone you know, it is still so important to know how to defend yourself should you be attacked.  Find your local YWCA or Women’s Resource center as they often times provide basic and advanced self defense courses.  This way if someone does attempt to grab you, you will know how to defend yourself and get away.

5.)   Know you alcohol limits and watch your drink at ALL times- While alcohol is the #1 drug used in committing sexual assault, Rohypnol, Ketamine and GHB are close seconds.  These drugs are commonly referred too as “date rape” or “club drugs” as they render the user incapacitated leaving them vulnerable to attack and leaving little to no memory in their wake.  It is very important to know your alcohol limitations. Do you get drunk easily? Do you blackout or pass out when you drink? Parties are infamously known for drinking games and binge drinking.  If you know your own limitations, you can plan better for your night and avoid drinking games or shots if you know you cannot handle them. Also knowing your limitations will make it easier to identify whether or not someone has slipped you a drug.  Make sure you hold your own drink at all times and don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know or trust.

Remember, it is NEVER your fault if someone abuses you, it does not matter what you said, did, wore, etc.  No one is allowed to touch with you without your consent.   Prevention is key when it comes to sexual assault but truly we need to get to a place when young men are fully engaged in ending sexual assault.  Another important step is to talk about these things with your peers engage young men and women during Heath class or other appropriate places.  Talk about consent, what is it?  When it can be given.  Talk about drinking and consent.  Join or start a group at school that educates about sexual assault, recruit young men to speak out about sexual assault and consent.

If you or one of your friends becomes a victim of sexual assault, there is help and you are not alone. To learn more about what you can do to educate others and get help contact the RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE or visit them online at www.rainn.org.   There are trained volunteers waiting to answer your questions and to get you the help you need in your local area.

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