Risk Reduction Tips
Risk reduction tips can often take a victim-blaming tone, even unintentionally. With no intention to victim-blame, and with the recognition that only those who commit sexual misconduct/violence are responsible for those actions, these suggestions may nevertheless help you to reduce your risk experiencing a non-consensual sexual act:
- Make your limits known as early as possible.
- Tell a sexual aggressor “NO” clearly and firmly.
- Try to remove yourself from the physical presence of a sexual aggressor.
- Find someone nearby and ask for help.
- Take affirmative responsibility for your alcohol intake/drug use and acknowledge that alcohol/drugs lower your sexual inhibitions and may make you vulnerable to someone who views a drunk or high person as a sexual opportunity.
- Take care of your friends and ask that they take care of you. A real friend will challenge you if you are about to make a mistake. Respect them when they do.
If you find yourself in the position of being the initiator of sexual behavior, you owe sexual respect to your potential partner. These suggestions may help you to reduce your risk of being accused of sexual misconduct:
- Clearly communicate your intentions to your sexual partner and give them a chance to clearly relate their intentions to you.
- Understand and respect personal boundaries.
- DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about consent; about someone’s sexual availability; about whether they are attracted to you; about how far you can go or about whether they are physically and/or mentally able to consent. If there are any questions or ambiguity then you DO NOT have consent.
- Mixed messages from your partner are a clear indication that you should stop, defuse any sexual tension, and communicate better. You may be misreading them. They may not have figured out how far they want to go with you yet. You must respect the timeline for sexual behaviors with which they are comfortable.
- Don’t take advantage of someone’s drunkenness or drugged state, even if they did it to themselves.
- Realize that your potential partner could be intimidated by you, or fearful. You may have a power advantage simply because of your gender or size. Don’t abuse that power.
- Understand that consent to some form of sexual behavior does not automatically imply consent to any other form of sexual behavior.
- Silence and passivity cannot be interpreted as an indication of consent. Read your potential partner carefully, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal communication and body language.
In the investigation and review process, legal terms like “guilt, “innocence” and “burdens of proof” are not applicable, and the University never assumes anyone is in violation of the sexual misconduct policy.
The University investigation and review of complaints of sexual misconduct take into account the totality of all evidence available, from all relevant sources. The determination as to whether sexual misconduct occurred will be based on the preponderance of the evidence – whether it is more likely than not that the sexual misconduct occurred.
Bystander Intervention Tips
An active bystander is someone who intervenes to interrupt behavior in situations that could lead to sexual misconduct, assault, or violence. Effective intervention is the community responsibility of every person. Individuals are encouraged to speak out against attitudes that promote sexual misconduct and become more supportive of victims. There are essentially five stages to effective and safe bystander intervention:
- Be aware of your surroundings and notice potential problems;
- Understand that the problem demands action;
- Feel the responsibility to act, just as you hope others would if you were the person in the problem situation;
- Choose what form of safe assistance to provide; and
Remember intervention doesn’t have to be confrontational. Simply honking your car horn, turning on the lights, or turning off the music at a party can call attention to a situation. Every member of the University community plays a role in intervention. If you don’t speak up and challenge inappropriate behavior once you become aware, in a sense you are helping to perpetuate the problem.
Other tips for safe intervention
- Remain calm and speak up, say something like… “You need to just ease up” or; “he/she already said no to you once, so why don’t you just stop”.
- Remain calm and ask the perpetrator “Is there a problem here?” or “What are you doing to this person?” or “You should really stop and think about what you’re doing here”.
- Ask others in the area to help so as to intervene as a group.
- Assist the person by walking them to their car or to a safe area until assistance arrives if authorities have been contacted.
- Call Campus Security 256-233-8222 or 911 if not on campus.
- Don’t be afraid to tell a friend when they are acting inappropriately.
- Be willing to challenge inappropriate conversations or jokes directed at sexual misconduct, assault, or violence.