How can I lower my risk of sexual assault for myself and others in social situations?

If you are assaulted, or if you find yourself in a situation that feels unsafe, it is not your fault. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, no matter what she was wearing, drinking, or doing at the time of the assault. You can’t prevent sexual assault, but you can take steps to be safer around others:5,6

  • Go to parties or gatherings with friends. Arrive together, check in with each other, and leave together. Talk about your plans for the evening so that everyone knows what to expect.
  • Meet first dates or new people in a public place.
  • Listen to your instincts or “gut feelings.” Many women who are sexually assaulted know the abuser. If you find yourself alone with someone you don’t trust, leave. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings or being disliked. If you feel uncomfortable in any situation for any reason, leave. If the person is preventing you from leaving, try to get someone else’s attention who can help you get to safety. You are the only person who gets to say whether you feel safe.
  • Look out for your friends, and ask them to look out for you. You can play a powerful role in preventing sexual assault of other people. If a friend seems out of it, seems much too drunk for the amount of alcohol she drank, is acting out of character, or seems too drunk to stay safe in general, get her to a safe place. Ask your friends to do the same for you. Learn more about how you can help prevent sexual assault as a bystander(link is external).
  • Have a code word with your family and friends that means “Come get me; I need help” or “Call me with a fake emergency.” Call or text them and use the code word to let them know you need help.
  • Download an app on your phone. Search in your phone’s app store for free women’s safety apps you can download and use if you feel unsafe or are threatened. Some apps share your location with your friends or the police if you need help. You can also set up an app to send you texts throughout the night to make sure you’re safe. If you don’t respond, the app will notify police.
  • Be aware of how much you drink. Research shows that about half of sexual assault victims had been drinking when the attack happened.7 Drinking alcohol does not make the attack your fault, but alcohol — and drugs — can make it more likely that you will be drunk or high later on. If you are drunk or high, you cannot consent to sexual activity or you may not understand what is happening.
  • Keep control of your own drink, because someone could add alcohol or date rape drugs to it.
  • Get help or leave right away if you feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol or if the effects of alcohol feel stronger than usual. This can happen if someone put a date rape drug or any kind of drug into your drink. Many drugs have no smell or taste and can cause you to pass out and not remember what happened.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re walking alone, don’t wear headphones so you can hear what’s happening around you. Also, as much as you can, stay in busy, well-lit areas, especially at night.
  • Have a plan to get home. If you plan to use a ride share service from an app, make sure your phone is charged or bring a charger. It can help to have a credit card or cash on hand if you need to leave quickly.