We often hear about potential victims preventing sexual assault. The truth is one person has the ultimate power to prevent sexual assault—the one who is going to commit the assault.
However, bystanders can be key players in prevention. They have the ability to intervene and stop a bad situation.
In no circumstances is it the responsibility of potential victims to prevent their own assault.
How to Reduce Risk
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network offers several general tips on how to reduce risk. There are also many precautions you can take when you’re on or near campus.
- Tell your friends about your plans for the evening and when you plan to be home.
- Go to parties or bars with a group of friends, look out for each other, and leave together.
- Do not go to a room or secluded area with someone you do not know well.
- Do not leave a party with someone you just met.
- If someone is forcing you to do something you do not want to do, clearly and directly say “no” or “stop.”
- Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, leave or call for help.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Avoid illegal drugs altogether.
- At parties or bars, get your own drink and keep it with you.
Alcohol and Drugs
So-called date-rape drugs, such as odorless and tasteless Rohypnol and Ecstasy, receive a lot of attention. However, alcohol is the No. 1 date-rape drug in college. It’s legal to purchase if you’re 21 or older, it’s easily accessible, and it’s rarely considered a “drug.”
Alcohol is involved in nearly three-fourths of campus rapes. Someone who has had too much to drink can’t give or judge consent. Alcohol can make perpetrators more aggressive and lowers inhibitions.
Only ‘Yes’ Means Yes
Just because someone is not saying no, or even if they are not saying anything, it doesn’t mean they are saying yes. Being in a relationship, having had prior sexual relations, or flirting does not mean yes.
Victims may fight back, flee, or freeze in the moment. It is never the victim’s fault if they don’t respond in a certain way. Consent requires clearly communicated agreement to all forms of sexual activity.
Know the Difference
Consent: Informed, sober, freely given, and communicated by clearly and mutually understandable words or actions to participate in sexual activity. Consent can be revoked at any time. People cannot give consent if they are impaired or incapacitated.
Coercion: Pressuring another person into having or continuing sexual activity; using manipulation, intimidation, or threats.
You coerce someone when you:
- talk someone into a sexual activity
- wear down someone
- make the person feel guilty
- keep the person isolated from others
- take advantage of how much alcohol someone had to drink
These behaviors are inappropriate and are addressed in the university’s sexual misconduct policy.
Consent includes a mutual verbal agreement, which can be revoked at any time and cannot be given by someone who is impaired or incapacitated.
If you are unclear about what someone wants to do—ask. Do not use alcohol to facilitate sex.
If someone asks you to stop doing what you’re doing, stop. It’s unacceptable to pressure anyone to drink too much or force someone to perform sexual acts.
Sexual assault can lead to criminal charges filed against you, as well as university actions if you are a student.
More Ways You Can Help
Bystanders can effectively thwart many risky situations. Learn about techniques for bystander intervention.
If someone has already been assaulted, there are ways you can help.
Ball State offers several programs and outreach events to educate our campus about sexual violence and prevention.