“Risk reduction” is the name for behaviors that might potentially reduce the risk of sexual misconduct from occurring. Many of us probably already engage in risk reduction often: we might walk in groups at night, make sure we don’t leave our drink unattended at a bar or party, and/or try to avoid being alone with people we don’t know. While risk reduction is valid, remember that there are no surefire ways to prevent sexual misconduct from occurring. The only people who can truly prevent sexual misconduct are the people who commit sexual abuse against others. Sexual misconduct doesn’t happen because of what someone was drinking or saying or doing or wearing/not wearing. It happens for one reason only: because someone decided to commit abuse against someone else. If someone experiences sexual abuse and they did not engage in risk reduction, that does not mean that the abuse could have been avoided or that it is their fault. Again, it is only ever the fault of the person who decided to commit abuse against someone else.
Some Risk Reduction Options
- If drinking, consider doing so in moderation.
- Avoid leaving drinks unattended/accepting drinks from open containers.
- If you go out on a date with someone you don’t know well, consider telling a friend or family member what your plans are.
- When you are with someone, communicate clearly to ensure they know your limits (both verbal and nonverbal body language communication can be used to ensure the message is understood).
- Know that you have the right to say “no” or change your mind about engaging in sexual activity with a partner(s), even if you initially said “yes”. You are allowed to revoke consent at any time, even if you have engaged in sexual activity with this partner(s) before.
- Always have a plan for someone you can call if you need help, as well as alternative transportation plans.
- If you feel uncomfortable, scared, or pressured, communicate that by saying "stop," leaving, or calling for help.
- Consider going to parties or other outings with a group of friends; you can arrive together, watch out for each other, and make sure everyone leaves together. If your friend gets too intoxicated to stay at the party, take them home. Leave no one behind.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you don’t know where you are going, walk with confidence anyway, and avoid walking and texting.
- If possible, avoid being isolated with a person you do not know or trust.
- If possible, travel with a friend or in a group.
- If possible, walk only in lighted areas after dark.
- Keep the doors to homes and cars locked.
- Know where a phone is located. If relying on a mobile phone, consider carrying a charging device with you.
- Be mindful of using the 'check-in' feature on social media to let others know where you are or that your home is vacant. Consider posting after the event is over.
- If you see someone in need, intervene if possible. If not, call 911.
Some Ways to Reduce Risk of Sexually Abusing Others
- Listen and respect the wishes of your partner. If you are unclear if you have consent, assume you do not and clarify with your partner.
- If someone says no, do not interpret that as a need for further persuasion or convincing.
- Be aware that you cannot obtain consent from someone who is mental or physically incapable. This can include someone who is rendered temporarily incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
- Resist pressure from friends to participate in violence.