Teach Teen Daughters Signs of Potential Sexual Assault

When we imagine sexual assault, we tend to think of a stranger jumping out of a dark alley to attack an unsuspecting woman. However, that is rarely the case. Nearly 85% of all victims of sexual assault knew the person who raped or assaulted them.  Therefore, if we want to keep teens safe, then we must teach them how to spot signs that could lead to a possible sexual assault. Please give your teen daughter the following list of behaviors that should ring alarm bells:

Trying to Get You Alone

When someone is trying to isolate you or move you to a more private location, you should be wary. Examples might include someone trying to get you to go upstairs to a bedroom “to talk” during a party or someone asking you to tutor them in their bedroom. In these examples, it’s hard to know the person’s real intentions, and if you really like the person, you don’t want to offend them. The best idea is to offer alternative locations that are more visible or public. For example, if the person really wants to be able to talk during a party, then suggest going outside, or if the person wants tutoring, then offer to meet them at the library. If they are adamant about going to the private location, you can be pretty sure their motives are not pure, and you should absolutely not go with them.

Under the Influence

Experts estimate that half of rape cases at college involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. A 2015 poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates heavy drinking is among the most meaningful predictors of sexual assault in college. In fact, the survey also indicated that women who said they drank more than they should are over twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as those who drank lightly or not at all. Alcohol contributes to sexual assault in multiple ways, including intensifying a perpetrator’s aggressive behavior, impairing both a victim’s and perpetrator’s judgment, and reducing the victim’s ability to forcefully resist and/or articulate what they do or do not want. You need to be aware of these issues and take extra precautions when around intoxicated individuals. If you plan to attend a party where there might be drinking, you should go with a group of friends who agree to watch out for each other.

Expresses Viewpoints Excusing Men or Blaming Women

You should feel concerned if you are getting to know someone and they make statements about women leading men on, men not being able to control themselves sexually, or women who dress provocatively are “asking for it.” These types of statements are aimed at taking the responsibility for sex away from men and placing it all on the woman. These comments should not be dismissed, or written off as boys being boys, because they give strong clues into an individual’s attitude towards sexual relationships.

Unexpected Behaviors

We don’t make our best decisions when something unexpected happens, and some people will use that to their advantage. Surprises should set warning bells ringing. For example, if you are a college student and a male acquaintance turns up at your room at unexpected hours asking for help on a paper, you should really be wondering why he didn’t call you to set up a meeting or ask if he could come over. You should never allow an unexpected guest into your room. Offer to help them in one of the common areas or meet them later at a specific time and public location. Again, if their motives are pure, they will be agreeable to other suggestions. When someone surprises you, it can be hard to have good judgment in the moment, so try to avoid making decisions on the fly in response to someone else’s surprising behavior.

Discounting your No

Be wary if someone keeps giving you reasons why your suggestions won’t work or why you should do something you don’t want to do. Some people are very persistent and will keep ignoring or disregarding your objections. This is a clear sign that they do not respect you, and you should not trust them. Taking the previous example of a fellow student asking to come into your dorm room for help on a paper, you might suggest that you meet at the library tomorrow morning, but he will insist he needs the help tonight, and then when you suggest that you go to your dorm’s common room, he says it’s packed. Don’t give in to his persistence. Remind yourself that you’re not being rude; you are just setting and staying true to your boundaries. When someone refuses to accept your no, raise your guard.

Labeling

If you stand your ground, the individual might change methods and try to label you in an unfavorable light. In the previous example, your fellow student might say something to the effect that you’re unkind or that you’re not willing to help others. Or they might bring up something they did for you in the past implying that you owe them and call you ungrateful. When faced with this type of unfavorable labeling, many people feel they have to prove they are not that type of person. Don’t fall for his manipulation. Labeling is an aggressive accusation that puts you in a socially awkward position. He is trying to make you feel embarrassed or guilty so that you do what he wants.

Assuming Consent

Sometimes a situation can start off innocent and fun, but can quickly escalate out of control. You might really like a young man – perhaps you are even dating – and at first you are excited and enthusiastic about holding hands and kissing. Unfortunately, some young men will take this enthusiasm as permission to go further. This is where the importance of sexual consent comes in. You are under no obligation to have sex with someone just because you were flirting and/or kissing with them first. Be clear about what you are, and are not, willing to do. Polite approaches may be misunderstood or ignored. Don’t just go along for the ride thinking your hesitant body language will communicate your discomfort. In fact, some young men have the mistaken perception that when women say “no,” they really are just flirting and want to be coaxed into saying “yes.” You may have to be forceful in declaring and defending your boundaries. However, there are ways to explain your boundaries without completely rejecting the other person. You might say, “I am not ready to have sex, but I do like when we make out. The farthest I’m willing to go right now is ____.” This removes any ambiguity about what you want, but clearly demonstrates that you aren’t ending the relationship.

Final Thoughts…

We must let our daughters know that young men might put them in socially awkward or embarrassing situations where their desire to be kind or not offend someone will outweigh their decisions to protect their safety. Inform your daughter that if she should notice the signs listed above, she should do her best to exit the situation as soon as possible. Violent situations can develop faster than we may think, and assaults can happen extremely quickly. Let your daughter know that if the other person actually has positive intentions towards her, more than likely they will have no problem connecting with her in a more public location and won’t be offended in the slightest. If they are offended, they likely had bad motives, and your daughter doesn’t want to be around them anyway.

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