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How NOT to Get Sexually Assaulted on Spring Break

Did that headline get your attention? I hope so.  Time after time, I am tasked with giving young people pointers on how NOT to be in an unhealthy relationship or how NOT to be sexually assaulted, but the true issue at hand is how do we get people to NOT emotionally, physically, verbally, financially, or sexually abuse another person?  How do we empower the young people in our community to absolutely, without a doubt know that someone else’s unhealthy or abusive behavior is NEVER his/her fault?

Even though I am perplexed by community members who victim blame and lack basic empathy skills, I still believe making safe, well-informed decisions is important in everyone’s life.  There are things we all do to feel safer in our homes, in our communities, and at work.  However, to say someone should have done A, B, or C to protect themselves from an assault is absurd.  We should be formulating plans to stop abusers from abusing.  I recently read an article written by a sexual assault survivor that summed up this notion very well:

At 18 years old, exhausted by all the things I was being told I should have done to protect myself from being sexually assaulted by a friend, I wrote a satirical list of tips on “How to Avoid Rape.” The list parodied the “tips” given to me, which always made me feel as if the responsibility for the assault was mine, rather than the perpetrator’s.  Last week CTV News reported a list of safety tips issued by the Ottawa police, that sounded all too familiar. The list of tips aiming “to help females protect themselves” was released as a response to the two sexual assaults reported to Ottawa police on July 14. The advice included suggestions such as avoiding “walls, doorways and pillars” at night.

I immediately thought of the list I made in high school and how ridiculous it was that it is still relevant over 15 years later. These kinds of safety tips shame and blame survivors. They fail to recognize institutional barriers and that the responsibility for the assault is on the perpetrator. So, along with femifesto, a grassroots consent culture collective, and several rad Canadian feminists, we co-created an updated, intersectional version of my original tip sheet in the form of a handy infographic.”

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.  I promise you, that has nothing to do with what a person wore or that they drank too much at a party.  That statistic has everything to do with our country’s lack of accountability towards perpetrators of abuse.  

If you want to work to prevent sexual assault, learning and engaging in bystander intervention techniques may help a friend involved in an unhealthy or unsafe situation.  You can learn more about bystander intervention here:

To learn more about sexual assault in Indiana and how to become involved in the fight to end sexual assault, visit:

Be Kind, Culture Changers.

Lindsay Stawick

Youth Program Manager