Sexual Assault & Date Rape
Sexual assault is never the victim's fault. But you can take steps to avoid dangerous situations. Be alert when you're alone. Be discreet about your personal plans. And protect yourself in all scenarios:
- Lock your doors and windows at all times, and instruct children not to open the door for strangers.
- Don't tell people that you live alone.
- Close your curtains at night.
- At night, leave a light on in more than one room and a light on outside.
- Think about places where an intruder might hide: garage, laundry room, etc.
- Replace or re-key locks when you move into a new home or apartment.
- Install a door viewer and a one-inch dead bolt.
- Don't open your door to strangers.
- Require all strangers to show identification. If you haven't called for a repairman, don't open the door. Call his place of business first to verify his reason for being there.
- Don't let a stranger inside your home to use the phone. If you choose, make the call for him.
- Women living alone should use only initials on mailboxes and telephone listings.
- If you get an obscene phone call, don't react. Just hang up.
In your car
- Check your back seat for intruders before getting in.
- Lock your doors and keep your windows up when driving or parked and keep your valuables out of sight.
- Honk your horn continuously if someone does get in.
- If followed, drive to a busy area or police station.
- Never pick up hitchhikers.
- Always have your keys ready to unlock the car door and enter without delay. Never walk across a parking lot while digging in your purse for your keys.
- Be sure you have enough gas to get to your destination, and always keep your vehicle in good running condition.
- If possible, travel on well-lit, busy streets and avoid back roads and shortcuts.
- Park in areas that will be lighted if you must return after dark.
- Never leave your house keys with your car keys when having your car serviced or parked.
- Never stop to aid a stranger in a stalled vehicle. You can report the vehicle to the police by phone.
- If you have trouble, raise the hood, stay in your vehicle and phone for help. If someone offers assistance, roll the window down just enough to communicate. If you have no phone, ask them to call a relative, friend, garage, or the police for you. Never get into a strangers car.
- Avoid walking alone, especially at night. Walk with someone, or walk in areas where other people are near.
- Stay in well-lighted areas away from alleys, bushes and entryways.
- Don't hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
- If a driver stops to ask you directions, avoid getting near the car.
- If you are being followed, go to the nearest business or residence for help.
- If you are harassed by the occupants of a car, simply turn and walk the other direction. The driver will have to turn around to follow you.
- Hold your purse close, not dangling, and avoid carrying extra money or valuables.
- Don't take shortcuts through deserted areas such as alleys, parks or parking lots.
- Have your keys in your hand so your house or car can be opened immediately.
- Consider carrying a whistle.
- Above all, stay alert. Be aware of the people around you. Be aware of your surroundings and the entire environment.
If you are raped, call the police immediately and give them all the information you can. You should also call the 24-hour sexual assault hotline provided by the Houston Area Women's Center: 713-528-7273.
Do not change clothes, shower or bathe. All physical evidence, including fluids, hair, blood types, and scrapings from the victim's nails are used in court.
Here's the information the police need most:
- Race of assailant
- Approximate age
- Hair (color and length)
- Color of eyes
- Clothing (type and color)
- Any unusual scars, marks, tattoos, rings, etc.
- Car make, model, color and license plate number
- What was said
Date rape is not a misunderstanding, and it's not "rape-light"; It's a serious crime. It's hard to think of someone familiar - a date, a friend or a boyfriend - as a rapist. But that's what makes it so insidious. Familiarity breaks down your self-preservation instincts. However, nothing you do or say or wear gives anyone the right to assault you in any way.
- You have the right to set limits. Communicate them clearly.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation doesn't feel right, remove yourself.
- Drugs and alcohol decrease your ability to protect yourself and to make rational decisions.
- First date or blind date? Go to a public place such as a movie, restaurant, or campus event - and with friends.
- Don't leave a party or bar with someone you just met.
- Do not fall for lines such as "This party's a drag. Let's leave."
It's never okay to force yourself on a woman, even if:
- She teases you or dresses provocatively.
- She says ""no"; and you think she means "yes".
- You've had sex with her before.
- You've paid for a night on the town or an expensive gift.
- You've been dating for quite a while, and you think it's time.
Do not assume you both want the same degree of intimacy. If you have any doubts, just stop.