Sexual Assault-Can We Stop It?

This is a guest post from Kelly Caver, M.S.. Originally posted on the UMKC Counseling Center’s Blog.

Anna was thrilled to begin college this fall, but also felt a little nervous and insecure about starting a new part of life.  When she met a friendly guy in one of her classes who invited her to a party, she felt flattered by his attention and relieved that she was making a friend.  The next morning after the party, Anna felt hurt and used, remembering how her “friend” continued to offer her alcoholic drinks, led her into a bedroom, and ignored her resistance to his sexual advances.

You might be having some reactions to this story – compassion for Anna, anger or disgust at her “friend,” fear that this could happen to you or someone you care about, or even doubt that something like this could ever happen to you or anyone you know.

Perhaps you’re heard the stats already and know the facts about sexual assault.  20-25% of female college students have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault while in college.  Sexual assault is ANY sexual activity where consent is absent or not freely given.   Anyone can be a perpetrator of sexual violence – a significant other, an acquaintance, a friend, a family member, or a stranger.  90% of attempted or completed sexual assaults on college women involve alcohol use, which can impair a potential perpetrator’s ability to accurately read a partner’s sexual cues and make it difficult for a potential victim to recognize and respond to signs of danger.

Maybe, like me and many others, you hate the fact that sexual assault happens to anyone – let alone so many college students around you.  You don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of sexually.  You want this problem to stop – NOW.  What can you do?

  • Clearly tell your partner what you want and do not want sexually, and ask them to tell you the same.  Feel free to say no at any time.
  • Never assume consent. If you are getting mixed messages, or are not sure what your partner wants for any reason, ASK. Clearly tell your partner that it is OK to say no.  LISTEN to your partner and respect their wishes.
  • Limit your use of alcohol and other drugs at parties and on dates by deciding in advance how much you will drink, counting your drinks, and alternating them with non-alcoholic beverages.  Use the “buddy system” to monitor each other’s alcohol consumption and safety.  Do not leave your drink alone or accept a drink from someone else unless you saw it poured.
  • Directly intervene to protect others when you observe an unsafe situation by making sure the potential victim is safe or confronting the potential perpetrator.  Indirectly intervene by letting a friend, house owner, bouncer, or security guard know about the risky situation.
  • Join others in their efforts to prevent sexual assault. Check out events put on by the UMKC Women’s Center – including the September 22nd Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a men’s march against sexual violence.  Take part in the Women’s Center’s campaigns to end violence against women, These Hands Don’t Hurt and The White Ribbon Campaign, with tables around campus during the month of October.
  • Learn more about what to do if you or someone else you know is a survivor of sexual assault.  Check out the UMKC Violence Prevention and Response website.

Finally, if you or someone you care about has experienced a sexual assault, the UMKC Counseling Center is here to help you learn to cope with the aftermath, gain personal empowerment, and heal from your assault.