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How to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of sexual assault

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness, and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival- Aristotle
Sexual assault is non-consensual sexual contact. Women, men and children of all ages can be victimized by sexual assault. A rapist may be a stranger, acquaintance, or relative. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics reported that roughly 18% or 17.7 million women had experienced rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.
While there is no absolute protection against sexual assault, there are precautions you can take to help reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted by a stranger. Here are an important few:
- Close and lock your doors even during the summer months. 'Wear clothes and shoes that allow you to move quickly
- When walking, project an assertive image and walk confidently.
- Familiarize yourself with your surroundings and try to think about where you will go if you find that you must make a quick getaway. 'Always have your key available and ready when approaching your home or car doors. Remember also that a key in between your fingers can serve as a weapon.
- If someone attacks you, yell 'fire' rather than 'help.'
- Try not to allow yourself to drop your guard if someone that you do not know approaches you with a question. Often strangers will ask a question like 'Excuse me, do you know what time it is?' "How do I get to route 301 from here?' or say something like 'It sure is hot out here!' In spite of this distraction, try to keep your guard up.
- Avoid walking alone, especially after dusk.
Most people are more at risk of being assaulted by people who know them. Between 70-80% of all sexual assaults occur at the hands of someone that the victim knows. Share these important suggestions to help reduce the risk of acquaintance rape:
- Know that it can happen to you or someone you love. Ignoring the reality may further increase the risk.
- Trust your instincts.
- Never leave your beverages unattended if you are in the company of persons you do not know and trust well whether male or female.
- Think carefully about being alone with a person that you do not know well. Evaluate how well you really know the persons you chose to spend time alone with.
- When dating, be on alert for controlling behaviors.
- Try to avoid being in a position that causes you to be dependent upon another person. Carry a well-charged cell phone and always know whom you can call in a jam.
- Communicate your limits and boundaries clearly in short concise statements. Polite statements may be ignored. Make it clear that your decision is not up for discussion.
- Reassure people you care about that they can come to you if the unfortunate happens and someone assaults them. Many victims will never share their painful secret with those who might expect that they would. Children and other loved ones should be assured that you will not blame them and they will not be in trouble if they share 'secrets' with you. Take the time to educate yourself about sexual assault and the effects on the victims, you may need it sooner than you realize.
- Right now is the time to talk to your loved ones who will be attending college. Maintain ongoing communication with young men as well as young women about safe behavior. Encourage young men to educate themselves about consent and remind them not to support jokes or situations in which someone may be assaulted.
These tips may help to reduce your risk of sexual assault but may not entirely prevent this violent crime from occurring. It is important to keep in mind that the offender is always to blame and that sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor. No one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted. If the unfortunate does happen, help is available.

About the Author
Tonya Genison Prince is a personal coach and editor of two newsletters; "Arise" for people of faith who have experienced sexual assault, and "Sing" provides knowledge for their wise counsel. With 10 years experience as a sexual assault and family violence advocate and counselor; she is also a speaker/trainer for persons of faith on how to minister to survivors of sexual assault. For subscription, booking, consultation or product information contact tonyaprince@princegeorges.com


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