Sexual assault, including but not limited to rape, is any kind of sexual physical contact that involves force or any form of coercion or intimidation.
Rape can happen to anyone—children, grandmothers, students, working women, wives, mothers, and even males. Many victims know their assailants. In more than half of reported cases, the rapist is an acquaintance, neighbor, friend, or relative of the victim, according to the National Women's Health Information Center. Most rapes occur in the victim's home.
Women who use illegal drugs and alcohol are more vulnerable to sexual assault because they’re less aware of their surroundings.
The following suggestions from the NWHIC can help decrease your chance of being sexually assaulted.
Safety at home:
Install a peephole viewer in your door, and never open your door without knowing who’s on the other side.
Install effective locks on all doors and windows and use them.
Install an intruder alarm system.
Don’t let any strangers into your home, no matter what the reason or how dire the situation appears to be. Offer to make an emergency phone call while they wait outside.
If you come home and find a door or window open or signs of forced entry, don’t go in. Call 911 or your local emergency number from a safe location.
On the street:
Be alert to your surroundings and the people around you, especially if you’re alone or it’s dark.
Walk confidently, directly, and at a steady pace on the side of the street facing traffic. A rapist looks for someone who appears vulnerable.
Always park in a well-lit area.
Use the alarm button on your automatic car door opener if you think you are being followed to your car.
Have your keys out and ready before you need them, whether it is for your car or home.
Always look around, and in the back seat of your car, before you enter your vehicle.
If you think you’re being followed, walk quickly to an area where there are lights and people. If a car appears to be following you, turn and walk on the other side of the street.
If you’re in danger, scream and run, or yell “fire.”
At parties and bars:
Avoid intoxication and drug use. When a person is drinking alcohol or using drugs, it’s harder to think clearly and evaluate a potentially dangerous situation.
In a bar, accept drinks only from the bartender or wait staff.
If you’re raped:
Go to a safe place immediately and call the police. The sooner you report the incident, the greater the chance the attacker will be caught.
Don’t wash, douche, change clothes, or clean up in any way until you talk with the police and go to a hospital.
Remember, you’re the victim. You have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Contact a rape crisis center to help you deal with the assault. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network has crisis workers available 24/7 at 800-656-HOPE or through its website.