Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including inappropriate touching, vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, sexual intercourse that you say no to, rape, attempted rape, and child molestation. Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. It is a reality for everyone. Anyone can be a victim regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status, or religion. Sexual assault victims include infants, elders, deaf and hearing impaired individuals, and members of the LGBT community, minorities, women, men, and disabled persons. No one is exempt. Above all, sexual assault is a crime! In light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the following tips are just a few risk reducers to being sexually assaulted: »» Listen to your instincts. Normal premonition and “gut” feelings are natural indicators that something may be wrong. If you do not feel comfortable with a situation, leave. »» Be independent. Most sexual assaults occur between acquaintances or people you already know. You don’t want to be dependent on someone for transportation to and from social outings and if dating someone you don’t need to feel as though you “owe” something because of things done for you during the courtship. »» Avoid mixing alcohol and drugs with decisions about having sex. It is difficult to make important choices about sex if you are under the influence. »» Be aware of date rape drugs. These drugs are often impossible to smell, taste, or detect in beverages. If you leave your drink alone with someone, do not drink it after you return. You can choose to have a trusted friend watch your drink as well. »» Consider going with a group of people if you are meeting someone new. »» Communicate. It is important to clearly talk about what each person in a relationship wants to do sexually. However, understand that NO means NO. Communication can be verbal as well as physical. »» Avoid dating people who… don’t listen to you, don’t respect your personal space, make you feel guilty, or call you names (i.e., prude or uptight). »» Be assertive. Make it clear that you are not going to do anything you want to do and know that your date should stop once you have said or indicated NO. A victim is never responsible for being sexually assaulted. You are not at fault, the perpetrator is. The aforementioned are risk reducers but know that making a poor choice or failing to use the risk reducers does NOT make it acceptable for anyone to sexual assault you. »» If you have been a victim of a sexual assault, the MPD’s Victim Specialist Unit can provide you some much needed support. Get more information on this unit at: http://mpdc.dc.gov/vsu »» Get more information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at: http://www.nsvrc.org/saam »» Some helpful links to local resources include: o RAINN: http://www.rainn.org o DC Rape Crisis Center: http://www.dcrcc.org o National Center for Victims of Crime: http:// www.ncvc.org o La Clinica Del Pueblo: http://www.lcdp.org Friday, April 6, 2012