What is Rape and Sexual Assault?
Rape and sexual assault are acts of violence and can happen to anyone. Rape is forced sexual intercourse with any person without consent. Force may involve physical violence, coercion, or threat of harm. This includes situations where the victim is intoxicated, drugged, asleep, unconscious, or for any reason unable to give consent . . . basically, not saying, "Yes". Rape can be committed by a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, a date . . . by anyone. In fact, most sexual violence happens with someone the victim knows. A sexual assault includes the touching, either forcible or without consent, of the private and intimate parts of the victim's body. While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, read on because there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted.
What Are Date Rape Drugs?
“Date rape drugs” is a term given to any drug that is used for the purpose of impairing judgment or affecting consciousness to the point where forced or non-consensual sexual activity can take place more easily or with little resistance. Roofies (Rohypnol) and GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate) and Special K (Ketamine Hydrochloride) are the three drugs most commonly known as date rape drugs. If any one of these drugs were put into your drink, you probably wouldn't know because they are virtually undetectable; they are tasteless, odorless and mostly colorless. The fact is that any drug or alcohol can make an intended victim less able to protect him or herself, but these drugs have an added punch: Each of them can make someone unable to defend herself against attack in a very short time, in some cases, it takes less than one minute! Date rape drugs are fast acting so if you suddenly begin to feel abnormally intoxicated, disoriented or confused, call a parent or the police immediately!You don't have much time to act! If you wait, you may become a victim of rape. If you wake up and have very clear signs that you were sexually active but have no memory of the activity, if you feel "hung-over" but did not ingest alcohol or only a small amount and if you have a significant memory loss you may have been a victim of a date rape. If you believe that you were raped by someone who used a date rape drug on you, you must act quickly. Do not change your clothing, shower, brush your teeth or go to the bathroom. Contact the police or your nearest rape crisis center immediately
While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted. The following Rape Prevention Tips are by far the most comprehensive tips available and they are from the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix.
Protect Yourself At Home
- Keep all entrances well lit. If normal lighting is not functioning in an entryway, approach with extreme caution. It is not uncommon for a criminal to remove, unscrew, or break bulbs in entryways.
- Check the identification of any sales or service persons before letting them in. Ask for a photo ID. If you have any doubts phone the company for verification.
- Equip your home with peepholes, dead bolts, and chain locks. If you have a child, add a second peephole at their eye level.
- Never give the impression that you are at home alone if strangers telephone or come to your door. Advise your children to do the same.
- Beware of potential hiding places and avoid them.
- Keep outside bushes and shrubbery trimmed. Overgrown bushes and trees often provide excellent hiding places for criminals.
- Plant defensive shrubbery around your home, especially beneath windows. Bushes that feature thorns, such as bougainvillea, or stiff, spiky leaves are not good hiding places for criminals.
- If you come home and find a door or window open or signs of forced entry, do not go in. Go to the nearest phone and call the police.
Protect Yourself in Your Automobile
- Keep your car in good working order and gas tank at least half full. Make a practice of filling up your vehicle during the daylight hours. Never let it get so low that you are forced to stop for fuel, particularly at night in an area with which you are unfamiliar.
- Always have your keys out and ready before leaving a building to approach your car. Fumbling through your purse for keys after you've reached your car provides criminals with an opportunity to sneak up on you.
- Look around and in your car before entering. If you are concerned for any reason, simply walk past your car instead of getting into it.
- Lock your car door immediately after entering the vehicle. Make this your first action - even before putting the key into the ignition.
- When stopped in traffic keep doors locked as usual and leave yourself enough distance from the vehicle in front of you (to drive away) should a criminal attempt to walk alongside your vehicle and gain entry or attack you.
- Park in well lighted areas and lock the doors, even if you'll be gone a short time. Check your surroundings before getting out of your car. If something or someone strikes you as out of place or threatening, drive away.
- When you return to your car, have the key ready and check the front and rear seats and floors before getting in.
- If you are accosted in a parking lot, away from your own vehicle, consider rolling underneath a nearby auto. It is difficult to force anyone out from under a car.
- If an attacker does manage to get into your car while you are in it, do everything in your power to exit the automobile. If you are still behind the wheel, steer your vehicle into a barricade, a pole, a wall -- any object that will create a minor accident. Take advantage while your attacker's attention has been diverted and exit the automobile. Run, yell, and scream. Attract attention.
- Don't stop to assist a stranger whose car has broken down. Instead, help by driving to the nearest phone and calling police to help.
- If you get a flat tire, drive carefully on it until you reach a safe, well lighted and well traveled area. If necessary, better to ruin a tire than gamble with your safety.
- If you are involved in an accident, stay in your car until police arrive. In minor accidents where the other driver suggests you exchange insurance information, simply hold up your driver license and insurance card against the window.
- If you are being followed, don't drive home. Go to the nearest police or fire station and honk your horn. If that is not possible, drive to an open gas station or other business where you can safely call the police. DO NOT leave your car unless you are certain you can get inside the building safely. Try to obtain the license plate number and description of the car following you.
- If possible, have a cellular phone in your car for use in emergencies.
Protect Yourself While Walking or Jogging
- Always be alert to your surroundings and the people around you. Walk confidently and at a steady pace.
- When on the street, walk facing oncoming traffic. A person walking with traffic can be followed, forced into a car, and abducted more easily than a person walking against traffic.
- Walk close to the curb or on the sidewalk. Avoid doorways, bushes, and alleys.
- Don't walk alone at night and always avoid areas where there are few people.
- Be careful when people stop you for directions. Always reply from a distance, and never go too close to the car. Stay far enough away from the car that you can turn and run easily. An alternative is to simply state, "I don't know" and keep walking.
- If you feel you are being followed, walk to a well populated area.
- If you are in trouble, attract help any way you can. Scream, blow a whistle or yell for help.
- Trust your instincts. If a particular place, person, or group of persons makes you feel uneasy, go a different direction, do not approach.
Protect Yourself from Date Rape Drugs
- Never leave a drink unattended. NEVER.
- Do not accept a drink from anyone you would not "put your life into their hands." (Remember, any stranger or casual acquaintance could be suspect. Even those people who are mixing or pouring drinks.)
- If you are feeling sick or dizzy while out socially, go to someone you KNOW and TRUST. If there is no person you can talk to about your condition, call someone on the phone. Never leave alone. NEVER. (The intent of date rape drugs is to get you isolated and then to assault you.)
- If you think you have been drugged and cannot tell or call someone, call 911. A blood sample can be collected and appropriate tests run.
- Remember, alcohol greatly increases the effects of these drugs. The mixture could be lethal.
Why Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine are used in Date Rapes:
- They are easy to administer. (Stir and dissolve)
- When victims feel the effects, they often leave and are caught alone and vulnerable.
- If victims 'come to' during an assault, the drugs render them totally helpless and unable to do anything.
- When victims are raped, they doubt their experience because of the impaired memory of it.
If You Are Attacked
There is no single strategy that always works, so remember these tips:
- Keep your head. Stay as calm as possible, think rationally and evaluate your resources and options.
- It may be more advisable to submit than to resist. You will have to make this decision based on the circumstances. Be especially careful if the attacker has a weapon.
- Keep assessing the situation as it is happening. If one strategy does not work, try another. Possible options, in addition to non-resistance, are negotiating, stalling for time, distracting the assailant and fleeing to a safe place, verbal assertiveness, screaming to attract attention and physical resistance.
- Stay alert and observant so that you can better describe the attacker and the assault to the police.
- If forced to get into a vehicle, your life is in danger, so resist at all cost. Attract attention, cause a disturbance or try to disable your suspect, but DO NOT get into the vehicle. Scream, gouge his eyes, kick or knee him in the groin, stomp on his feet, use your elbows. Fight like you never have before. This is the fight for YOUR life and it could become your last one.
General Security Tips
- Always let someone know where you are and where you may be going. You should report all unusual stalking or following of you by any suspicious persons.
- Maintain your personal space. Stay alert! If a person moves inside your comfort zone, move away. If that person persists, run.
- Be alert when leaving stores or shopping malls. This is a time when criminals know you are carrying cash, checkbooks, credit cards, or valuable merchandise.
- Don't use outside ATMs at night, or in unfamiliar or unsafe surroundings. This is another time when criminals know you are carrying cash.
- Avoid filling your arms with packages. You might have to make more trips, but keep one arm and hand free whenever possible.
- When friends drop you off at home or work, ask them to wait until you are safely inside before leaving. Extend this courtesy to your own friends when driving them to a destination.
Safer Online Dating Tips from the Safer Online Dating Alliance
Because Internet dating is initially absent of verbal and nonverbal cues typically used to assess the credibility and trustworthiness of a prospective mate, you may develop an inaccurate perception of your partner. The following safety tips, formulated by SODA's panel of safety experts, are recommended for your Internet dating safety.
Internet Dating Companies and Meeting Online
- Use an online dating company that puts its members' safety above the "privacy" of other members.
- Use an online dating company that conducts criminal background screenings. If your online dating company does not run criminal background screenings on their users, have one done on your own, especially before meeting in person.
- While your online dating company should do whatever it can to enhance member safety and security, your safety and security are your responsibility. You must be careful and think before you act.
- Set up an email account different from your personal one through a web-based email service such as Yahoo, Google or Hotmail. Use an online name free from any sexual connotation, to avoid giving the impression you are interested in anything other than a meaningful, lasting relationship.
- Do not advertise any personally identifying information -- common blunders are screen names and email addresses that contain enough information to determine your identity.
- Be careful what information you give out to reduce the possibility of being targeted by someone who might view you as naive, wealthy, inexperienced, vulnerable, etc. Never provide financial information (such as bank account numbers), including your Social Security number, to anyone you meet on line.
- Do not post pictures of your children.
- Spend time getting to know someone online before talking on the phone or meeting offline.
- Report any member safety concerns to your online dating company. Stay away from people who bully you for personal information right away or pressure you to meet instantly.
Meeting the first time
- Always let friends/family know where you are going on your date, details of who you're going to meet, and what time you plan to be home. If your date is going well and you want to extend it beyond the time specified, call the person you let know about the date and tell them what time you'll be home later.
- Meet in a well lit public place, during daylight hours, with other people around. Try a coffee shop or restaurant. Bring a friend to protect you in case the date goes badly.
- Use your own transportation or public transportation.
- Wear conservative clothing; avoid suggestive language and jokes.
- Take a cell phone or change for a pay phone so you can communicate with friends/family if necessary.
- Verify your date's name and description using their driver's license.
- Do not go off alone with your date. Predators are masterful at building trust and confidence quickly and can take their victims by surprise.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable or insecure, immediately end the date and request someone at the location to escort you to your car or other means of transportation.
Be sure to save all of your emails, IM’s or other written correspondence for those individuals you meet, in case there is a problem at a later date.
Worst Case Scenarios
- If cyber stalked, block the offender's email address from your email account and tell your online dating company(s) to remove the offender's profile from their site. If necessary, change your email address so it's unsearchable by your stalker.
- Immediately report any stalking, sexual assault, or Internet dating crime to your local police. Some police departments have sex crimes and cyber crimes units specifically trained to solve crimes related to online dating. Courts can order online dating companies to remove an offending profile from their site. And, depending on the case, police can run a forensic computer analysis on your computer and the offender's computer. If your offender is unknown, other forensic investigative measures are available to apprehend the offender.
- If sexually assaulted by someone you met through an online dating service, get help from your local rape crisis center right away and notify your online dating company(s) to remove the offender's profile from their site.