Preventing Sexual Violence

Things you need to be aware of to prevent sexual violence; including date rape and sexual assault.

When we think about alternatives to vulnerability, we must be careful not to assume that there is always something a person "could have done" to prevent an assault. This is blaming the victim. When a person is sexually assaulted, it is the assaulter who is to blame.

In addition, sexual assaults, including those committed by acquaintances, may be violent and unexpected. This means that even when a person is able to assert what s/he wants, there is no guarantee that his/her feelings will be respected.

There are no formulas that can guarantee our safety from sexual assault. In a situation that is becoming coercive or violent, the moment is often too confusing to plan an escape, and people react in various ways. Some will fight back. Others will not fight back for any number of reasons such as fear, self-blame, or not wanting to hurt someone who may be a close friend. While fighting and giving up are both extreme reactions, it is important to realize that any reaction is legitimate. Again, the burden of responsibility must be on the attacker, not the victim.

Remember that date rape is a crime. It is never acceptable to use force in sexual situations, no matter what the circumstances.

Be Aware

  • Be an active partner in a relationship. Arranging where to meet, what to do, and when to be intimate should all be shared decisions.
  • Listen carefully. Take the time to hear what the other person is saying. If you feel s/he is not being direct or is giving you a "mixed message", ask for a clarification.
  • Know your sexual intentions and limits. You have the right to say "No" to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are uncertain about what you want, ask the person to respect your feelings.
  • Communicate your limits firmly and directly. If you say "No", say it like you mean it. Don't give mixed messages. Back up your words with a firm tone of voice and clear body language.
  • Don't assume that your date will automatically know how you feel, or will eventually "get the message" without your having to tell him or her.
  • Don't fall for the common stereotype that when a person says "No" it really means "Yes". "No" means "No". If someone says "No" to sexual contact, believe it and stop.
  • Be aware that having sex with someone who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent is rape. If you have sex with someone who is drugged, intoxicated, passed out, incapable of saying "No", or unaware of what is happening, you are guilty of rape.
  • Don't make assumptions about a person's behavior. Don't automatically assume that someone wants to have sex just because s/he drinks heavily, dresses provocatively, or agrees to go to your room. Don't assume that just because the other person has had sex with you previously s/he is willing to have sex with you again. Also don't assume that just because the person consents to kissing or other sexual intimacies s/he is willing to have sexual intercourse.
  • Listen to your gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think you may be at risk, leave the situation immediately and go to a safe place.
  • Be especially careful in group situations. Be prepared to resist pressure from friends to participate in violent or criminal acts.
  • Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to "look out" for one another. Try to leave with a group, rather than alone or with someone you don't know very well.
  • Don't be afraid to "make waves" if you feel threatened. If you feel you are being pressured or coerced into sexual activity against your will, don't hesitate to state your feelings and get out of the situation. Better a few minutes of social awkwardness or embarrassment than the trauma of sexual assault.

Be Active

  • Get involved if you believe someone is at risk. If you see a person in trouble at a party or a friend using force or pressuring another person, don't be afraid to intervene. You may save someone from the trauma of sexual assault and your friend from the ordeal of criminal prosecution.
  • Confront others' rape jokes and remarks; explain to others why these jokes are not funny and the harm they can cause.
  • Confront other people's harassment--verbal or physical. Harassment is not experienced as flattery, but as a threat.
  • Educate others about what rape really is. Help them to clear up any misconceptions they might have.
  • Ask someone who you don't recognize what they are doing in your dorm or residence, or who it is they are looking for.
  • Confront potential rape scenes. When you see a someone verbally harassing another person, stand by to see if s/he the person being harassed needs help. If a someone is hitting or holding a person against his or her will, do something immediately to help.
  • When walking in groups or even alone be conscious as you approach another person. Be aware of how afraid that person might feel, and give him or her space on the street if possible.
  • Be supportive of person's actions to control their own lives and make their own decisions. Don't be afraid to express these ideas.
  • If someone you know has expressed violent feelings or demonstrated violent behavior in a particular relationship, try to help him or her find an appropriate person with whom to talk (such as a counselor, RA, clergy, etc).

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2021, December 30). Preventing Sexual Violence, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Last Updated: March 21, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info