The idea of being raped is frightening for any woman, but it’s especially horrifying to think of it happening to our daughters.
The painful truth is that 1 in 6 women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime—and young women are most at risk. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), girls ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault.
The late teen years are when our daughters gain more independence and freedom, and transition into life away from home. While there’s no surefire way to prevent a sexual attack, we can talk with our daughters and urge them to observe the following guidelines, provided by RAINN, to help them stay safe.
1. Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe in any situation, go with your gut and do anything you can to get out or get help immediately.
2. Stick with your friends. Avoid being alone with anyone you don’t know or trust. At parties and events use the buddy system—make sure a friend knows where you are at all times.
3. Be safe online. Don’t share information like your phone number, address or current location on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Be very cautious when meeting in-person with someone you met online, and always meet in a public place.
4. Watch out for your girlfriends. If a friend is drunk or acting abnormally, get her to a safe place. If you think she may have been drugged, call 911. Don’t let her go off alone or with someone she doesn’t know well.
5. Know what’s in your cup. To avoid being drugged, watch when your drink is prepared and don’t ever leave it unattended. If you do leave your drink unattended, get a new one when you return.
6. Be alert. Be aware of your surroundings and stay on guard. Avoid going out alone at night, but if you must, keep to highly trafficked, well-lit areas. Don’t wear headphones, or immerse yourself in a text or phone conversation while walking—use all your senses to stay alert.
7. Have a plan. When going out with a group, make sure you arrange a meeting spot in case you get separated. Carry a charged cell phone, emergency cash and the phone number for a local cab company.
8. Intervene. Don’t be afraid to get involved if a situation seems questionable. If someone is acting aggressively, speak up. By getting involved, you could prevent someone from becoming a victim of sexual violence or prevent someone you know from committing a crime.
While following these tips can reduce a woman’s risk of assault, rape is a crime of motive and opportunity. It’s important for victims of sexual violence to know that the attack was not their fault. It’s also important for victims to know that they’re not alone; help is available.
RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. Among its programs, RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE and also at rainn.org.
Local Sexual Assault Hotlines:
Greater Chicago YWCA Rape Crisis Hotline: 888-293-2080
Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault, Arlington Heights: 888-802-8890
Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, Gurnee: 847-872-7799