While celebrating the new year a few years ago in Bangalore, India, hundreds of women were groped in the streets in an incident which is now being referred to as ‘mass molestation.’ During this time, women were kissed, grabbed, fondled and generally harassed in large numbers and without much recourse or support from government officials.
When it comes to protecting yourself against sexual assault, dressing appropriately or avoiding dark alleyways is a bit of misguided advice, because rape victims are often targeted in other ways that are not often addressed.
Being aware of your surroundings is a key factor in preventing an assault as best you can. Whether you are hanging out with friends or are on a date with someone, here are a few, crucial questions to keep in mind:
Be mindful when in an unfamiliar environment.
If you’re going to a place you have never been before, make a mental note of landmarks, public places, street signs, bus stops or any other identifying markers. That way, if you need to escape a harmful situation you can explain where you are to friends, family or law enforcement.
Don't be outnumbered.
Ensuring that you are not outnumbered is key when it comes to your safety. It is important to not place yourself into a situation that puts you at risk. This rule doesn’t just apply to strangers, but friends or associates. Remember that 3 out of 4 rapes are perpetrated by someone that the victim already knows.
Before you go anywhere, ensure that there are plenty of other females around or trusted, long-term male friends or family members who can join you.
Exercise caution while drinking.
Social drinking is common and safe the majority of the time.
But for obvious reasons, being intoxicated significantly reduces your level of awareness along with the ability to protect yourself. Drinking too much alcohol or consuming a mixture of different drinks can put you at risk for sexual assault. In addition, being around those who are drinking heavily can also allow uncontrollable behavior.
So even if you are drinking responsibly, it is still important to remain cautious.
Watch your drink. Alcohol or no alcohol, perpetrators often lace drinks with drugs to render their victims unconscious. It is always a good idea to pour your own drinks. Be aware of where your drink is placed and if possible, hold onto it until you’ve finished. If you must leave it, make sure that a trusted friend can watch it for you, or simply pour the rest out once you’ve returned.
*In general, never accept illicit drugs, pills, drinks or unfamiliar substances.
Additional Tips to Reduce the Risks of Sexual Assault
Try double dating or going out with a larger group.
When dating someone new, double dating can be a great way to keep yourself safe. If you can’t double date, be sure to meet up in populated areas with a good mixture of both sexes and be sure to let someone who cares about you know where you will be, and who you will be with.
Remain in well-lit areas while walking.
If you must walk alone (especially at night), be sure to walk in well-lit areas without headphones or any other gear that may impede your hearing or vision. It is best to walk with confidence even if you find yourself lost. Set your smartphone to its GPS walk setting to find a safe location and be sure to communicate with a trusted friend or family member until you are safe.
* Don’t accept rides from or get into vehicles with unfamiliar people.
Have access to your money, transport, and phone charger.
Your date might be paying for your meal, drinks, etc., which is always nice. However, it is always a good idea to have your own resources in case a situation turns bad.
This also applies to travel.
If you are going to visit someone, always put enough money aside to get you back home safely. Regardless of how you may feel about someone, remember that money often equals control and power. Rapists and abusers can often exert full control over their victims by ‘taking care of' transportation, finances, etc. So be sure to keep a credit/debit card hidden for emergencies and always keep the lines of communication open between yourself and friends and family back home.
Being mindful of these tips can reduce your risk of being the victim of rape and other violent crimes. Remember that you are first and foremost responsible for your own safety. But it is also important to watch out for your friends, associates, and anyone else who may be at risk.