During the first years of college, young men and women are bombarded with messages to be aware of their surroundings while outside on campus.
Don't walk home alone from the library late at night, park in a well-lit area, and watch your drink at parties to avoid being "roofied"- just a few of the things women are warned about.
But the fact is 60 percent of rapes occur in your own on-campus residence! (U.S. Department of Justice). Women are four times more likely to be raped by someone they know than by a total stranger. It is important for both men and women to understand the facts and how they can avoid being sexually assaulted.
If Someone You Know is Raped
It is estimated that the most important factor in the recovery of a rape victim is whether or not someone believes her story. You might want to question some facts when you hear the story, especially if the story includes someone else you know. Now is not the time for that. Take her word for it. Don’t blame her for decisions she might have made, and if she tries to blame herself, don’t let her.
Respond to any physical and personal needs
If the rape has just occurred, the person might have medical or personal needs that should be met. Ask her if she’d like to go to the hospital. Encourage her to go, but let it be her decision. The hospital is also a place where physical evidence can be collected against the rapist. If you are going to the hospital, it is important that the person does not “clean up” beforehand. Don’t shower, or change clothes.
Listen to and comfort your friend - don’t try to take control
More than anything else, just be a good friend. Fight the need to say, “here’s what we need to do.” That is for your friend to decide. Listen to what she has to say, without judgment. Your friend may want to be silent, she may want to cry, she may not want to be touched. Offer her choices, and be patient with her response.
Reinforce that she is not to blame
Blaming is a common theme after a rape. She might say things like, “I shouldn’t have gotten a ride with him,” or “I should have fought back.” Remind her that she did not deserve to be raped. Remind her that she didn’t ask for this to happen.
You can’t change what’s happened. There is no need for more violence.
Know that it might be difficult to control your own feelings. You might be upset and angry. Rape is a violent act. Your first thought might be to go and beat up the person. This is not about you and your anger. Don’t make your friend worry about calming you down. You might want to call the police or tell someone, but let her make the decision who she tells. She has told you because she thought you were safe and trustworthy.
Recommend that she gets help / talk to a counselor
This may not the first thing you would bring up, but if your friend decides to go to the hospital, it often helps to have a professional there that she can talk to (see numbers below for UE on-call counselors and sexual assault advocates from Albion Fellows Bacon Center). Sometimes women who have been raped want to put it behind them, try to forget about it as soon as they can, which usually doesn’t work. Ask her if she wants to talk to someone, over the phone, or in person. Tell her you will go with her. If she refuses, that is her choice. Ask her again later, without nagging. Tell her that you care and want to see her get help so the healing can begin.
Taken from The BACCUS & GAMMA Peer Education Network
Precautions Against Physical or Sexual Assault
- Turn on lights in all entrances and use strong locks on all doors and windows.
- Be aware of places where people might hide (under stairs, between buildings).
- Keep your door locked. Know who is knocking at your door before opening it.
On the Street or Campus
- Wear shoes and clothes that will allow you to run if you have to.
- Keep your hands as free as possible. Don't overload yourself with purse or packages.
- Avoid dark parking lots or other places where people might hide.
- Be aware of people and events around you. Walk briskly with a sense of purpose.
- Stay close to the street and the street lights when walking.
- When possible walk with a friend or in groups after dark or during "low traffic" times on campus.
- Always lock your car and look in the back seat before getting in.
- Keep your doors locked and windows closed while driving.
- If your car breaks down, raise the hood, lock yourself in, and wait for the police. DO NOT walk away or take rides from strangers.
- Don't hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers!
- On public transportation, look aware, don't fall asleep, and sit near the driver.
- If someone is following you, drive to the police station or a public location. Do not drive home!
- Go only where you want to go and with whom you want.
- Listen to your gut reaction about social situations and assess your comfort level.
- Assert yourself and stick with it.
- If you drink, stay in control. An intoxicated person is an easy target.
- If you are unsure of a new acquaintance, go in a group or double date.
- Be independent and aware of your dates.
- Do not accept a drink from a stranger.