No means no, always! 

Sexual assault is a real problem everywhere, even here. 

Sexual assault is among the most under reported crimes, for several reasons, but when you look at the problem nationally, the numbers are staggering.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and more than 90 percent of victims do not report the assault.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey revealed that one in four surveyed women said they were violently attacked by a husband or boyfriend.

One in five of all women surveyed by the CDC claimed they had experienced rape or attempted rape with half of those cases involving intimate partners.

The SunLight Project report shining the light on sexual assault in this edition is intended to raise awareness about a very real and scary problem. 

There should be no question about the frequency of sexual assaults on college campuses. We feel certain it does not get reported nearly as often as it occurs. Victims should know there is no shame in reporting and they might help prevent the same thing happening to another person. 

Perpetrators need to know that not only are they violating another person, they could very well be ruining their own life and could face lengthy incarceration and being placed on a sexual offender registry for life. 

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network offers guidelines to help prevent sexual assault in various situations, including:

— Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you find a way to get out of a bad situation.

— Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.

— Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.

— Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.

— Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.

— Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.

— Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.

— Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.

— When you go to a social gathering, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other throughout the evening, and leave together. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you find a way out of a bad situation.

— If you feel unsafe in any situation, go with your gut. If you see something suspicious, contact law enforcement immediately (local authorities can be reached by calling 911 in most areas of the U.S.).

— Don’t leave your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the restroom or making a phone call. If you’ve left your drink alone, just get a new one.

— Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust. If you choose to accept a drink, go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured and carry it yourself. At parties, don’t drink from the punch bowls or other large, common open containers.

— Watch out for your friends, and vice versa. If a friend seems out of it, is way too intoxicated for the amount of alcohol they’ve had, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safe place immediately.

— If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, contact law enforcement immediately. Be explicit with doctors so they can give you the correct tests (you will need a urine test and possibly others).

“Sexual assault is a crime of motive and opportunity and the majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim,” according to RAINN. “Ultimately, there is no surefire way to prevent an attack. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone.”

For more information about sexual assault or to find additional resources, call National Sexual Assault Hotline, (800) 656-HOPE, or visit online.rainn.org.

This is all good advice but the most important thing we can say, especially to young men, is that no means no, always. 

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