Sexual Assault: What It Is, Why It Happens & How You Can Help Protect Yourself

Let’s talk about sexual assault for a minute. What is it, why does it happen and what can you do to help protect yourself from it? There can be a lot of big terminology surrounding this topic, so let’s break it down and cover the basics.

What is sexual assault?

Well, sexual assault is any kind of sexual contact without consent from everyone involved. Consent is a clear “yes” to the sexual activity. Not saying “no” does not mean you’ve said “yes” by default.

Why does sexual assault happen?

Sexual assault doesn’t happen because you drank too much, dressed or talked a certain way or decided to take a walk by yourself. Many crimes are committed by opportunists who are simply always on the lookout for those ‘ideal situations’ and sexual assault in no exception. Sexual assault is about power and it’s a choice that is made by the offender, and that makes them the responsible party.

Did you know that the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services  states that more than one third of Canadian women have experienced sexual assault and that most research suggests that 10 – 20% of all males will experience some type of sexual abuse or sexual assault at some point in their lives? And in 82% of assaults, the victim knew their perpetrator? This article does a fantastic job of separating many of the myths and realities surrounding sexual assault.

How can you help protect yourself (and others) from sexual assault?

Knowledge is power and one of the best things you can do is be informed. It also doesn’t hurt to take the following preventative measures:

  • Know where you’re going. Be aware of the location or the neighborhood – some areas are safer than others. If you’re headed to somewhere questionable, never go alone.
  • Tell other people what you’re up to, where you’re going and when you think you’ll be back. That way if something does happen, there’s somebody who knows your original plans got derailed and maybe they should be concerned.
  • There is safety in numbers. Head out as a group and designate at least one or two  others (who won’t be partaking in the party festivities) not only as a designated driver, but to be responsible to keep an eye on the group – making sure that everyone who came together, leaves together.
  • If for any reason, a person from your group is taking off with someone you don’t know, pull out your phone and take a picture. If they’re leaving in a vehicle, try and capture the license plate. Any information is better than no information at all.
  • Never leave your food or drink unattended, ever.
  • Get social media savvy and remember that things are not always as they appear online.
    • If you’re meeting up with someone for the first time, pick a public place and don’t give out a lot of personal info prior to that meeting.
    • Remember that whatever you post online will likely be able to be found somewhere, somehow forever. Don’t post things like you address, phone number, birthday or other vitally important stats.
    • Disable the geo-location settings on ALL your devices! Seriously, do it now. You don’t want the photos you do post online to have your private location info embedded into them.
  • Listen to your instincts. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes, in an effort to be polite, we ignore instincts that we should be following. It’s ok to stand up for yourself. It’s ok to say no. You don’t have to agree to anything you don’t want to do, just to be nice.

Sexual assault is a big deal and it’s not your fault. If you or someone you know has been affected by this, please reach out and talk to someone today.

In Lethbridge the following resources may be helpful:

Lethbridge College Health Services

Lethbridge University

YWCA Harbour House Crisis Line: 403-320-1881 or Toll Free: 1-866-296-0447