Sexual Assault: It’s all fine and good to be feminists and know that it is unfair that women are targeted for violence more than men — but we live in the real world with real danger. College-age women are more than four times more likely to be sexually assaulted, according to RAINN. Here’s some tips:
- Trust your “Spidey Sense.” If you feel like something or someone is off, trust that instinct. Get out. Get away. Get safe.
- Be aware of your surroundings and walk with purpose. Often, perpetrators are looking for easy targets. They don’t want you to notice them. Keep an eye open. Scan all around yourself periodically. Notice who’s walking nearby. And walk like you know exactly where you’re going. Don’t walk around with both earbuds in if you listen to music.
- Avoid isolated areas and avoid being completely alone at night.
- Make sure your cellphone is charged and handy (you don’t want to dig for it in an emergency).
- Have a back-up plan. If you’re going out with friends, make a mental plan if something happens and you can’t ride home with them (cab fare, bus schedule or another friend’s number). If you have to stay late on campus, check to see if your school has a safe ride program in which you can get a free ride home. Have a friend you can text or call if things get strange on a date or at a party.
*If something happens, don’t wait to call for help. Get yourself to safety and call the police, a women’s organization, a national hotline like RAINN’s, your church, a friend or family member…whatever person or organization or place that will have safe support for you.*
Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Pregnancy: It might not be what you want to think about in the moment, but if you find yourself with an STI or unwanted pregnancy…it’ll be the only thing on your mind.
- The pre-show: Evaluate if and when you want to have sex. If you’re single, this is the perfect time to evaluate your sexual safety and health. If you’re coupled, it’s the sign of a healthy relationship to periodically re-evaluate where you are at and if you are comfortable, safe and healthy.
- Get tested! Just do it. Do I really have to explain why? You don’t want to be sick. You don’t want to spread anything around. You don’t want to die.
- Have a plan — before the fireworks start. Think about what form of birth control you want to use and have it on hand. If it’s condoms, a diaphragm or other barrier device, carry it with you if you are sexually active. (It doesn’t make you a slut. It means you love yourself and care about your own body and health.) Keep in mind that some forms, like The Pill, only protect against pregnancy and you’ll still need another method to protect against diseases.
- If your plan failed, or at least the condom did, know that you have resources. Emergency Contraception. Planned Parenthood. Your student health center. You have options but you’ll have to act quickly.
- Know that it’s okay to have sex and it’s okay to not be having sex. Do what is right for you, not what someone else pressures you to do.
Assault: There are a lot of ways to refer to it — abuse, domestic violence, battering, beating, intimate partner violence — but the core of it is violence, manipulation, control. NCADV has a good over-view. And you may start seeing a lot of information around campuses and public spaces, as October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 85% of domestic violence victims are women and 1 in 4 women will experience DV in their lifetime. If you or someone you know is an abusive relationship, there are resources on the local and national level that can offer help. The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Below are some warning signs of things an abusive partner may do:
- Says mean things, embarrasses or belittles you
- Isolates you by disliking your friends and family, refusing to let you be around them
- Isolates you by refusing to let you go to work or school
- Makes all the decisions in the relationship and for your household (if you live together)
- Blames you for their mistakes
- Acts jealous when you spend time away or talk to other people
- Makes you feel helpless or worthless
- Controls all access to money, credit cards, bank accounts
- Controls access to your medications
- Threatens deportation
- Assaults you: push, hit, slap, punch, shove, kick, etc.
- Assaults your children or pets
- Throws things at you, your children or pets
- Demands sex acts or intercourse or demands you to perform sex acts you are not comfortable with
Above all else, trust your instincts and be careful out there!