George Mason University

Be Aware

While some incidents seem to occur out of nowhere, there are other instances where certain "red flags" are present. Be aware and informed of the following signs that things may be out-of-line. 

Alcohol and Sexual Violence

Alcohol use is often associated with sexual assault, particularly in college settings. It is important to remember that ALCOHOL DOES NOT CAUSE SEXUAL ASSAULT — someone must still be present and commit that assault. However, alcohol can make it easier for someone to commit sexual assault (what’s called a drug-facilitated sexual assault) and can prevent a survivor from fully remembering what happened.

Remember that sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, regardless of whether she or he was drinking or using drugs. That said, there are some steps you can take to reduce your vulnerability and make you feel more secure. They're not foolproof, however, and being the target of an assault does not mean you “did something wrong” or “didn’t do enough” to keep yourself safe.

Keep an eye on your friends
Have a plan for arriving and leaving together.
Check in during the party to see how each other is doing.
If something doesn’t look right, say something.
If something is making you uncomfortable, say something.
If you're worried about a friend’s safety or behavior, say something.
If you're worried about a friend’s safety or behavior, say something.
Have a backup transportation plan and buddy system in place in case someone leaves early, your designated driver falls through, or you want to leave without waiting for the group.
Know what’s in your drink
Avoid large batch drinks or punch — you don't know the ingredients, and the alcohol content can be deceptively high.
Don’t leave your drink unattended. Take it with you to the bathroom, the dance floor or anywhere else you go.
Stick to bottled or canned beverages — something with a lid that you remove yourself — or watch it being poured at the bar by a professional bartender.
Trust yourself
If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, go with your gut.
Know your limits. Be aware of how alcohol makes you feel. Know when something is “normal” for you or not. Do you feel more intoxicated than you should?
Listen to your sober self. Ask, “would I do this sober?” There are lots of things we know we wouldn’t do drunk: drive, take an exam, make major legal decisions. Will you be comfortable with your decision the next day?

Signs of Possible Abuse

Someone who has been or is being abused can feel and display a variety of emotions. Even if they're not showing the "classic signs," they still might have experienced some form of sexual violence. Pay attention if someone displays:

  • Shock, disbelief, numbness, withdrawal.
  • Preoccupation with thoughts and feelings about the assault.
  • Unwanted memories, flashblacks, and/or nightmares.
  • Intense anger, fear, anxiety, depression.
  • Physical symptoms: sleep disturbance, headaches, stomach aches.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Loss of focus on academics, slipping grades.
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Fears about safety.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame.