Trust Your Instincts
- 1 out of every 3 American Women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
Cohen, A. (1988) Become Street Wise
- 1 in 4 college women has been raped or suffered an attempted rape.
Koss, Woodruff, & Koss (1990) A Criminological Study
- Every 21 hours there is a rape on an American College Campus.
USA Today. (1990) 7 part Crime Series
- The F.B.I. estimates, a woman is raped every three minutes.
Barnard/Columbia Women's Handbook (1992) Sexual Violence
The Facts About Sexual Assault
Anyone Can Be a Victim/Survivor
Sexual assault awareness is based on environmental alertness. Remember, alcohol and drugs dull your reflexes. When uncomfortable, trust your instinct!
Some people have the wrong idea about sexual assault and rape. They think the attacker was overcome with sexual desire, the victim/survivor was dressed too seductively, or the victim/survivor asked for it.
These ideas assume that sexual assault is motivated by sexual desire. It isn't.
It is a violent crime, a hostile attack, an attempt to hurt, humiliate, and control the victim. Sex is only the weapon.
Sexual assault is sexual abuse / fondling / touching of a person in areas of the body considered private, against her/his will, by force, threats, and/or intimidation.
Rape is sexual intercourse with a person against her/his will through force, threats, and/or intimidation.
Remember that there is a difference between consent and submission out of fear. If you fear for your life, your physical safety, or the life and safety of a loved one, you may sincerely believe you have no other alternative than to submit to a sexual act. This does not mean that you have consented to it; submission is not consent. The decision to resist or not to resist can only be made by the person who is attacked.
The Victim/Survivor - You are a victim/survivor of a crime if you have had unwanted sexual contact. Sexual assault is no less serious if you know your assailant. Previous sexual contact with your assailant does not justify or excuse the crime. If you think sexual assault is motivated by passion or happens because the victim asked for or wanted it, look at the facts. Sexual assault can happen to anyone - you, your children, co-workers, or friends, or other members of your family.
The Situation - Perhaps you think sexual assault happens only in certain high-risk situations such as hitchhiking, walking alone at night, or going out socially alone. It's true that sexual assault can occur in such situations, but it also takes place in ordinary, seemingly safe places. In fact, about one-third of all rapes occur in or near the victim's residence. About one-half of the rapes are by first or casual dates or romantic acquaintances.
The Assailant - It is important to be aware that most sexual offenders don't look abnormal or act strangely. In fact, perpetrators of rape and sexual assault are not always strangers to their victims. In many cases, the assailant is an acquaintance, neighbor, friend, or relative.
The Crime - I thought I could trust him; I thought he was my friend, I started feeling uncomfortable, but I ignored my feelings. I thought he would never do anything to hurt me. Suddenly, he was a stranger. He was doing something I never thought he would be capable of -my friend was raping me.-- Donna - 20-year-old acquaintance rape survivor.
Increasing Your Safety Factors
Be Alert When With Acquaintances
Prevention seems to be the rational answer. Date rape prevention involves educating both young men and young women. Men need to know that NO means NO, not maybe or yes; that the only thing they are owed for a date is thank you and that a woman has the right to change her mind. Men need to know that they have the right and responsibility to communicate clearly--to say what they mean and want. They need to trust their instincts and learn to stay out of risky situations.
- Find out about a new date. Ask others who know or have dated the person. Date with friends before accepting a single date. Make definite plans in advance.
- Take your own vehicle or meet at the destination. Carry money for a phone call or fare home.
- Avoid parties where men greatly outnumber women. Don't leave a group setting with a person you don't know.
- Be wary of behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable. If it persists, leave. Stand up for yourself.
- Avoid secluded places where you are put in a vulnerable position.
- Be careful when inviting someone to your residence or accepting an invitation to theirs.
- If someone is pressuring you, say that you don't like it-and mean it.
- Women need to learn that it's O.K. to refuse a date. They need to trust their instincts.
Be Alert Where You Live
- Be sure the doors of your residence are locked when you are there as well as when away.
- Use peepholes to identify people before opening the door.
- Make sure that all windows are properly secured.
- Never indicate to anyone that you are alone.
- Never let strangers inside your residence to use the phone. Offer to make the call for them.
- Use blinds or draperies for privacy.
- Avoid being in isolated areas such as laundries or parking areas alone, especially at night.
- List your initials instead of your first name on your mailbox and in the telephone directory.
- Always have your key ready for quick entry.
- Have a telephone with a lighted key pad readily available near your bed for quick use at night.
- If you find a door or window open or signs of forced entry upon arriving at your residence, don't enter. Go to the nearest phone and call the police.
Be Alert When Walking
- Avoid walking alone. On campus, use the Escort Service; call 852-6111.
- Stay in well-lighted areas, away from alleys, bushes, and entryways.
- Walk on the side of the street facing traffic.
- If a driver stops to ask directions, avoid getting close to the car.
- If a car appears to be following you, turn and walk in the opposite direction.
- Don't hitchhike and only accept rides from people you know well.
- Always be alert and aware. If someone bothers you, don't be embarrassed to attract attention to yourself. Yell!
- Always try to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
Be Alert In Vehicles
- Have your keys ready when you approach the vehicle.
- Check inside your vehicle before entering.
- Always lock your doors, both when driving and when parked.
- Park in well-lighted areas.
- Avoid isolated roads and shortcuts.
- Keep your vehicle in good repair and make certain you have enough fuel.
- If your vehicle breaks down, raise the hood or display a sign. Stay in the vehicle with the doors locked and the windows rolled up. If someone stops to offer you help, roll the window down slightly and ask the person to call for assistance.
- If you are followed, drive to the nearest open business for help, or go to a police or fire station.
- If involved in a minor collision at night or in an isolated area, do not exit to inspect the damage or contact the other driver. Signal the other driver with your lights, and proceed to the nearest lighted and occupied business or police station.
Know Your Defenses
Anyone can be a victim/survivor of sexual assault. You should think about the kinds of defense you would be willing to use. A 1989 FBI study shows that there is no correlation between a victim who resists and the amount of physical injury she sustains. 71% of victims avoid being raped by taking self-protective measures, whereas of the remaining 29% only 8% escaped without being raped.
Because all people and all situations are different, there is no ONE way for you to protect yourself. People have different capabilities, and you must decide for yourself the best defense method for you.
There are several ways to react to a sexual assault . . .
The goal of passive resistance is to think and talk your way out of the situation. With passive resistance you can:
- Try to calm the attacker. Try to persuade him not to carry out the attack.
- Try to discourage the attacker. Pretend to faint, cry hysterically, act mentally incapacitated or insane.
- If you are at your residence, tell the attacker a friend is coming over or that your spouse or roommate will be back soon.
Active resistance is intended to distract or temporarily injure your attacker to create an opportunity for escape. Nobody can tell you whether or not active resistance will be the right thing to do. A decision to resist actively, however, is irreversible. Your goal is to escape, not to win. Here are some pros and cons regarding the most common types of active resistance:
Yell don't scream: Screaming comes from the throat and can be mistaken for playful banter. Screaming is also associated with fear. Yelling comes from the diaphragm, the center of a woman's power. It is an empowerment action, attracts attention, and cannot be mistaken for a playful scream. Yelling also prepares her body to accept a blow, if necessary, without having the wind knocked out of her. A yell can surprise or frighten an attacker away if he fears people will come to help.
A forceful struggle may also discourage an attacker. If you are not afraid to hurt someone, and can land a strong kick or kit, fighting back may give you the opportunity to escape. All hits and kicks must be forceful and aimed at vulnerable areas, such as the groin, eyes or instep.
Could you effectively defend yourself if attacked?
The University of Louisville, Department of Public Safety offers The Rape Aggression Defense Systems (R.A.D.) Class.
This system is designed to help women learn self defense. It consists of tactics that help women become more aware of the possible dangers that can develop at any time. It is dedicated to teaching women defensive concepts and techniques against various types of attacks. It does this by utilizing easy, effective and proven self defense/martial arts tactics.
The system is thorough and will provide all women with the necessary skills to make a confident and educated decision about defense. The University of Louisville, Department of Public Safety has been teaching R.A.D. since 1993. Our courses are taught by certified R.A.D. instructors.
Itis currently being taught at many colleges and universities. It is growing at a rapid pace due to its simplicity, effectiveness, and flexibility. It demonstrates a unique teaching methodology with solid research.
For more information or to register for the next class, call the University of Louisville, Department of Public Safety at 852-7277.
Some people carry weapons to ward off attackers. Unless you are trained and not afraid to use these weapons, they can be very dangerous. The attacker might be able to turn them against you. Also, some weapons cannot be legally carried, so check with local law enforcement authorities.
Chemical sprays have become available as a means of self defense. Unfortunately, they can provide a false sense of security. Consider the following:
- wind direction is a factor (the wind could blow the spray on you);
- effective range is questionable;
- as with any weapons, user may be liable for its use;
- the possibility that these sprays may not work on all assailants;
- shelf life of products should be considered;
- must be available in potential victim's hand at all times;
- effectiveness of individual products is questionable.
Submitting to an Attack
If you believe you might get hurt defending yourself or if you're afraid to fight back, don't. Sexual assault is still an assault and still a crime, even if you do not have a single cut or bruise. Victims who do not resist should never feel guilty; it is the assailant who committed the crime.
If You've Been Attacked
What Should You Do If You're A Survivor of Sexual Assault?
Many survivors of sexual assault don't know where to turn for help or what to do. You may be afraid or ashamed to talk to anyone, or want to act as though nothing has happened.
If you've been assaulted, get help quickly. Contact the Department of Public Safety, 852-6111.
If You've Been Assaulted
- Go to a friend's house or somewhere you can get emotional support.
- Do not douche, change clothes, shower, or do anything to change your appearance. If you do, you may destroy evidence (seminal fluid, hair, clothing fibers, etc . . . ) That the police, sheriff, and prosecutor need to arrest and convict your attacker.
- Do not disturb the physical surroundings in which the assault took place. If you do, you may destroy valuable evidence.
- Report the assault to the authorities (DPS). This does not mean you must proceed with prosecution.
- Seek counseling. Even if you don't report the assault or press charges, you should contact the local rape crisis center your local counseling center for information on counseling services.
Emotional Concerns of Survivors
- As a survivor of a violent crime, you will probably experience strong emotional reactions.
- You may feel guilty because society has conditioned you to believe you asked for it or did not do enough to fight off your attacker.
- You may feel angry and take it out on those you love.
- You may feel afraid that your attacker will come back.
- You may feel ashamed of what has happened to you.
- You may feel helpless because it seems you have lost control of your life.
- You may feel unclean, even after bathing. These feelings may cause you to behave in ways you normally would not.
- You may not be able to sleep, or you may have terrible nightmares.
- You may find your eating habits changing.
- You may not want to be left alone.
- You may not be able to resume your normal sexual relationships.
- You may have trouble concentrating and making decisions.
- You may cry uncontrollably.
Helping the Survivor
- Believe the survivor. People rarely make up stories about being a sexual assault victim.
- Let the survivor know you want to listen. How you listen matters more than what, you say. Don't interrupt; let stalls and silences happen. Show interest; nod, maintain eye contact, repeat back. Let the victim know you care. Express sympathy, empathy, and concern. Acknowledge that the survivor is blameless. She or he may have used poor judgement, but no one deserves to be raped. Avoid blaming language.
- Be patient; survivors may feel the need to talk about the assault repetitively or may not feel able to talk to you at all.
- Let the survivor control the situation and who is informed about the assault. The victim needs to regain control. Respect confidentiality. Even if you disagree, respect the survivors right to choose the course of action; offer (but don't impose) choices.
- Realize that you will have strong feelings about the assault; seek counseling for yourself. Avoid communicating your biases and negative emotions to the survivor.
What Happens if You Call the Police?
First, they will make sure you are safe. They'll help you get to the hospital, and will place you in touch with counseling providers.
A police officer will question you about what happened. Female officers and investigators are usually available if you'd prefer. This interview may take place before, while or after you visit the hospital. Other officers will examine the place where the attack occurred to collect evidence.
If your attacker was a stranger, you may be asked to look at photographs of prior offenders or to help a police artist prepare a sketch of your attacker. As the investigation progresses, the police will remain in touch and keep you abreast of developments. If a suspect is located, you will be asked to confirm the identification through means that prevent the suspect from seeing you.
What Happens if You Choose to Prosecute?
Whether or not you choose to prosecute, is up to you. For situations where the attacker is a student at the University, institutional disciplinary proceedings are an option in addition to or instead of the regular criminal prosecution system; again, the venue for prosecution is up to you. Ultimately, you must appear in court in order to prosecute the offender. It takes courage to report and prosecute a sexual assault, but it is the only way to stop the assailant and may help you reagin your sense of control.
What if You Know Someone Who is a Sexual Assault Victim?
- Sexual assault is a terrible experience for the victim and for the victims friends and family. If you know a sexual assault victim, you may notice a change in attitude as well as acts of fear, withdrawal, and uncertainty.
- Show the person that you care.
- Offer to be with the person who may be afraid to be alone.
- Give your support by being available to spend time with the person.
- If the person wants to talk about the experience, listen.
- Encourage the victim not to feel guilt or shame regarding the assault.
If you want more information on sexual assault or services to survivors, you can contact:
University of Louisville:
PEACC Violence Prevention and Intervention - 852-2663
Student Health Services - 852-6479
Counseling Center - 852-0660
Women's Center, Patterson Hall - 852-8976
Department of Public Safety - 852-6111
City of Louisville and Jefferson County:
Rape Relief Center, 226 W. Breckinridge St. - 581-7273
Center for Women & Families, 226 W. Breckinridge St - 581-7200
Center for Women in Crisis, 202 S. 1st St. - 222-1128
Crisis & Information Center - 589-4313
Seven Counties Services - 800 221-0446
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) - 800-656-HOPE
RAINN, a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C., provides a free service for victims who cannot reach a rape center through a local telephone call, as well as for those who might not know that a local center exists. The 800 calls will be routed instantaneously to a rape center nearest the caller. The center will provide counseling and support.