Originally posted at the Diamondback. Republished with permission.
Last spring, a group of students at North Carolina State University announced a new sexual assault prevention tool: Nail polish that, when dipped into a drink, can detect the presence of “date rape” drugs.
The announcement was met with skepticism and even criticism from sexual assault prevention advocates, who quickly pointed out that “date rape” incidents account for only 2.4 percent of all reported assaults.
The bigger issue with this fad is it doesn’t really address the societal causes of gender-based violence. It adds one more item to the list of “things women should do to prevent themselves from getting raped.” Instead, why don’t we focus our energies on educating men not to rape women in the first place?
I agree with both sides of the argument. As a society, we should be putting the onus of preventing rape on the would-be perpetrator, not the victim. But at the same time, I’m hesitant to put down any tool that could prevent even one assault — especially at a time when people are looking for tangible ways to prevent violence in their communities.
So, I decided to write my own list of everyday ways you — yes, you! — can actively prevent sexual assaults from happening this semester.
- Lock bedroom doors: If you’re hosting a house party, lock the bedroom doors before people start arriving. This will reduce the possibility of perpetrators taking advantage of incapacitated partygoers in empty rooms.
- Have a designated bartender: Instead of leaving open containers of alcohol at the party for people to pour from, have designated bartenders serve all the drinks and make sure the alcohol isn’t tampered with.
- Pick a party “helper”: There’s a Mr. Rogers quote I really love: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Designate a party helper, someone who will remain sober during the night and make sure everyone is safe. Post the name and the cellphone number of the helper around the party.
- Post the address of the party: This is especially helpful for freshmen at off-campus parties, as they might not know exactly where they are. Post signs around the party with the address, so a partygoer in trouble can call 911 or a friend to pick them up.
- Familiarize yourself with the three D’s of bystander intervention: If you see potentially dangerous behavior —like an upperclassman trying to isolate a heavily intoxicated freshman — there are three different strategies to intervene:
- Direct: Directly approach the person who is exhibiting dangerous or potentially dangerous behavior. Say something like, “Hey, this freshman looks way too drunk. I’m taking her back to her friends.” If you’re worried about your own safety, don’t try this step.
- Distract: Distract the upperclassman from the younger student. Say something like, “I want you to meet someone, come over here for a second,” and then get the freshman back to her friends.
- Delegate: If you don’t feel comfortable with the first two options, get help. This might mean finding a bartender, bouncer or the party helper. It might even mean calling the cops. But if you see potentially dangerous behavior and don’t want to intervene, ask someone else to step in.
The only way we’re going to truly create a campus without rape is by looking out for one another.