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Sunday, June 14

How to Prevent a Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact or behavior, implicit or explicit. Who are the perpetrators? Perpetrators of sexual assault are not limited to strangers. They can be friends, family members or acquaintances. Who are the victims? Any person, male or female, adult or child, friend, family member or stranger, can be the victim of a sexual assault. What constitutes non-consent of sexual activity? State law assumes that a person does not consent to any type of sexual activity if the person is threatened, unconscious, drugged, a minor, disabled developmentally, is chronically mentally ill, or is undergoing a medical procedure.

Appalling statistics reveal that someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every three minutes. This is based on the assaults that were reported. Over the past five years (2000-2005), on average, more than 50% of sexual assaults were not reported. Sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the U.S. Of the reported assaults, one in six were women and approximately one in 33 were men. According to a 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey, there were 191,670 victims of sexual assault, rape, or attempted rape. The methods used in this survey did not include children under the age of 13. However, the Justice Department has estimated that approximately one in six children under age 13 are victims of sexual assault. The FBI released preliminary results showing that, on a national level, violent crimes rose by 3.7% in the first half of 2006 compared to the same period in 2005. More preliminary results will be released in the near future.

Here are some guidelines you should follow to help prevent a sexual assault.

  • In any situation you should always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Walk on the side of the street facing traffic. Walk confidently at a steady pace.
  • Avoid walking were assailants can hide, such as doorways, bushes or alleys.
  • If you believe you are being followed, walk quickly to a lighted area and where there are people.
  • If you believe a car is following you, turn around and walk in the opposite direction or on the other side of the street.
  • If someone stops you and wants directions or anything else, reply to them from a distance. Do not get too close.
  • If at any time you feel you are in danger or need help, attract people in any way you can. Scream as loud as you can. If you are carrying a self-defense product such as Mace, pepper spray or a stun gun, use it and run.
  • When you are in your car, lock the doors. If you are not in your car, keep the doors locked so that no one is able to enter your car and hide in it.
  • While walking to your car have your keys in hand and ready to unlock the door. Before you get in your car look inside to make sure no one is hiding inside.
  • While driving, if you think you are being followed, either drive to a well-lit public area or drive to a police station.
  • If your car breaks down, open the hood and attach a white cloth to the antenna and get back in your car and lock the doors. If someone stops to help, remain in your car with the doors locked and ask them to call the police.

Please follow the guidelines above to lessen your chance of becoming a sexual assault victim. Also, carrying a non-lethal or less than lethal self-defense product such as Mace, pepper spray, personal alarm or a stun gun can ultimately reduce the chances of becoming a victim and may even save your life. -Susan Eaton

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