In a few short weeks, our beaches will be filled with young people on Spring Break looking to have a fun time. Not one will be going with the intention of being raped but many are heading off to Spring Break with a driving motivation to have sex. They know the party atmosphere of Spring Break can be the perfect place to satisfy their sexual impulses, with no regard for anyone but themselves, and they will be relying on things like drugs and alcohol to get away with it. Obviously, sexual assault is not a foregone conclusion, but prevention can only occur if we talk about it with our daughters and our sons.
Here is what we know about rape:
- About 25% of women will be raped before they reach the age of 25. S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Study: 2009-2013.
- According to The Washington Post who conducted and published a poll in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2015, 7% of young men say they suffered unwanted sexual incidents while in college.
- 80% of victims know their rapist. S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Study: 2009-2013.
- It is a power and control based crime. Much like domestic violence, the rapist is not choosing the behavior because he/she can’t help themselves or because they are so overcome with sexual attraction that they just HAVE to rape. They choose it because they feel like it is their right. Their sense of entitlement allows them to justify and minimize the impact of their actions on their victim and gives them the license to take sex.
These are not good odds.
But we can make them better.
Though it is never the victim’s responsibility or fault if a rape occurs, there are risk reduction behaviors and appropriate bystander behavior that everyone can engage in to help stop this epidemic.
Step 1: Understand what rape is. Everyone needs to recognize that rape involves any sexual activity where consent has not been provided. Consent CANNOT be given if someone is afraid, threatened, there is an imbalance of power, or is incapacitated. In Tennessee, rape can occur even if sex did not, as our state statutes define rape as any penetration, regardless of how slight the penetration or with what the penetration. So, if a finger is used to penetrate (or a water bottle or a pen, for example) and consent was not provided, rape has occurred. It’s very important that we all understand this definition since ignorance of the law will not protect us from going to jail.
Step 2: Be wise. The buddy system is imperative – especially in settings such as Spring Break. Groups of friends are much more difficult to take advantage of than someone by his or herself. Someone in the group needs to maintain their sobriety and they need to be observant of their friends as well as how others are attempting to interact with their friends. If warning bells are triggered, pay attention to those and don’t ignore them. Get your friends out of any situation that feels unsafe.
Step 3: Always guard your drink – even non-alcoholic drinks. Finish drinks before using the restroom, etc. If you do put a drink down, do not return to it – even if you left it with a trusted significant other. Unfortunately, trusted boyfriends and girlfriends have been known to rape those they have said they love. Make sure you have dated for awhile before you trust your significant other to guard your beverage. They need to have proved themselves in several situations before you would trust them not to take advantage of you.
Step 4: Be an appropriate bystander. If you see something wrong, whether you know the potential victim or not, have the courage to intervene. Intervention can be as simple as getting a group of your friends together to engage the potential victim in conversation and move him/her away from their potential offender. Remember, you can always call the police as well.
Step 5: Make the decision to do the right thing. Rape, whether you know the victim or not, is not something anyone is entitled to do to anyone else for any reason. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, who you are, what you do, whether you can get away with it, or what the potential victim is or is not doing. Rape is wrong. Every. Single. Time. Remember, that 20 minutes of selfish pleasure for the perpetrator can cause a lifetime of sorrow for the victim.
Step 6: Share this information. Talk about it. Tweet it. Facebook it. Make sure that your loved ones know the basics, and if something happens and you or someone you know is raped, please know that you are not alone. You can contact our office and we will help connect you with the most appropriate resource.
Valerie Craig, Co-Founder and Director of Education