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Prevention Tips

  • Assertive Behavior
    • Awareness and assertive behavior may be your best defense against becoming an “easy target.”
    • Hold your head up; walk confidently, directly and at a steady pace.
    • If you feel you are in danger of being attacked try to escape the situation by running away from it if you can.
  • Try in any way you can to attract attention to yourself. Screaming “Call 911” or “Fire” is a good way to accomplish this.
  • If you are being followed, head for a well-lit area where you think there will be other people who may be able to help you.
  • Stay alert and aware. Know where the exits are if you are in a building. In crowded places such as nightclubs, always let someone know where you will be. Do not go to isolated places in a building, if you must go, take a friend. Always turn around and look at whoever may be behind you.
  • If you walk or jog for exercise, try to vary your route and time on the street. To be predictable is risky.
  • Take a self-defense course.
  • Trust your “gut instincts.” If a person, place or situation makes you uneasy, leave or change it immediately.
  • Use the emergency call boxes on campus. If you are on campus and do not have access to a phone, locate the “emergency call box” on campus to contact District Police whenever you feel unsafe.]
  • If you are in an emergency situation and have access to a telephone, contact District Police at 4911 or local law enforcement at 911.
  • Report any suspicious activity or persons on campus and/or off campus to the proper authorities immediately. Report any situation that is unsafe such as insufficient lighting, high bushes, broken locks and propped doors.

  • Always make sure you lock your car doors, whether or not you are in the car. Always check the floor and rear seat before getting into your car.
  • When returning to your car, make sure your keys are in your hand, ready for use in unlocking the door and turning on the ignition. They can also be used as a weapon, should that become necessary.
  • If you suspect that you are being followed while driving, keep on going — do not stop and pullover until you get to some place that is well lit and where there are other people to assist you. If possible, drive to the nearest police station to let them know you are being followed.
  • Avoid parking lots and garages that are poorly lit. Do not walk to and from your parked car alone if it is at night. Ask a group to walk together to the cars.
  • If your car should break down, raise the hood and remain in the car with the doors locked until the police arrive. If you have a cell phone, call someone for help or call 911. If someone should stop and offer to assist you, roll down the window just enough to tell them they can call the police for you.

  • Have good locks (dead bolts are best) installed on all doors and be sure to use them. Make sure all windows are locked and well secured.
  • Be sure you know whom you are opening your door to. If a sales or repair person is legitimate, they will not mind you asking to see identification and confirming their identity with the company they represent.
  • Residence hall staff and/or college employees will not mind identifying themselves when they knock on your door.
  • If a stranger comes to your door requesting assistance (e.g. to make a phone call, car trouble, etc) offer to call the necessary people for him/her. Do not make yourself vulnerable by opening your door to a stranger, especially if you live by yourself or are at home alone.
  • For women who live by themselves in a house or apartment, never advertise the fact by listing your full name in the phone book or on a mailbox. Use instead your first two initials, or even add another name.
  • Be cautious about revealing any personal information over the telephone and/or Internet.
  • Draw your curtains or blinds shut at night so people on the outside cannot determine who is in the residence.
  • Do not hide a spare key in obvious places such as under the mat, in a potted plant, in a fake rock or on the doorsill, etc. Residence hall students should keep their room keys in their possession at all times. Do not leave door keys hanging in locks or laying out in plain view of others. Always lock your doors after you enter your residence hall room/house/apartment and also when you leave.
  • Talk to roommates about the importance of everyone following the safety strategies at all times.
  • Do not prop open any doors to a residence hall, house or apartment building at any time.

  • Know your sexual limits. What you want is critical, and you need to know what that is. Be assertive about your limits. You have the right to say “no.”
  • Communicate your desires. Communication leads to stronger and more fulfilling relationships.
  • Avoid being alone in isolated locations. If someone is leading you toward a secluded area, try to get away as quickly as possible.
  • Rape can occur when one or both individuals are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Set limits on alcohol consumption.
  • Be aware of “Date Rape” drugs. The drugs (Rohypnol, GHB) are odorless and tasteless and can be easily slipped into soft drinks, juices or alcoholic drinks undetected. Do not leave your beverage unattended or accept something to drink from someone you do not know well and trust.
  • Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to “look out” for one another. Try to leave with your group, rather than alone or with someone you don’t know very well.
  • Don’t be afraid to “make waves” or hurt someone’s feelings if you feel they are threatening to you. Better a few minutes of social awkwardness or embarrassment than the trauma of sexual assault

You can take steps to increase your safety in situations where drinking may be involved. These tips can help you feel more safe and may reduce the risk of something happening. Though it is best to stay safe while under the influence of alcohol, it’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, regardless of whether they were sober or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when it occurred.

  • Keep an eye on your friends. If you are going out in a group, plan to arrive together and leave together. If you decide to leave early, let your friends know. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about their safety.
  • Have a backup plan. Sometimes plans change quickly. You might realize it’s not safe for you to drive home, or the group you arrived with might decide to go somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Keep the number and/or app for a reliable taxi/Uber/Lyft company saved in your phone and on a piece of paper in your wallet and try to have cash on hand. To help keep your phone charged so you can stay in communication with friends or call a ride, consider bringing an external cell phone charger that can be used without an electrical outlet.
  • Know what you’re drinking. Consider avoiding large-batch drinks like punches that may have a deceptively high alcohol content. There is no way to know exactly what was used to create these drinks.
  • Don’t leave a drink unattended. That includes when you use the bathroom, go dancing, or leave to make a phone call. Either take the drink with you or throw it out.
  • Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust. This can be challenging in some settings, like a party or a date. If you choose to accept a drink from someone you’ve just met, try to go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
  • Check in with yourself. You might have heard the expression “know your limits.” If you think you have had too much to drink, ask a trusted friend to help you get water or get home safely.
  • Be aware of sudden changes in the way your body feels. Do you feel more intoxicated than you are comfortable with? Some drugs are odorless, colorless and/or tasteless, and can be added to your drink without you noticing. If you feel uncomfortable, tell a friend and have them take you to a safe place. If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and tell the healthcare professionals that you suspect you or a friend have been drugged so they can administer the right tests.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing sexual assault. There are many different ways that you can step in or make a difference if you see someone at risk. This approach to preventing sexual assault is referred to as “bystander intervention.”

What can I do?

The key to keeping your friends safe is learning how to intervene in a way that fits the situation and your comfort level. Having this knowledge on hand can give you the confidence to step in when something isn’t right. Stepping in can make all the difference, but it should never put your own safety at risk.

Create a distraction

Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.

  • Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party is lame. Let’s try somewhere else.”
  • Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about.
  • Start an activity that is draws other people in, like a game, a debate, or a dance party.

Ask directly

  • Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.
  • Ask questions like “Who did you come here with?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?”

Refer to an authority

Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation, like a security guard.

  • Talk to a security guard, bartender, or another employee about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe, and they will usually be willing to step in.
  • Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned for someone else’s safety.

Enlist others

It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.

  • Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.
  • Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom.
  • Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”

Your actions matter 

Whether or not you were able to change the outcome, by stepping in you are helping to change the way people think about their role in preventing sexual assault. If you suspect that someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are steps you can take to support that person and show you care.

More prevention information can be found at:

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Women’s Health

Office of Women's Health - Relationships & Safety