Use Your Common Sense, Rely on Your Mobile Phone, Get Help from Friends and Understand the Instinct to Survive

No woman wants to be sexually assaulted or raped. Yet we live in a society in which wearing revealing clothes or just a simple smile amounts to the myth of "she’s asking for it" still persists. Rape and sexual assault are a fear for many women across the globe, especially adolescent and young adult females; they're the group at highest risk, though no age group can be ruled out altogether. The belief that most rapes occur at the hands of a faceless stranger in a dark alley is only half the truth. Many a times, rapes involve someone the victim knows.

The following common sense tips intend to offer practical advice for every and any woman or girl to minimize risk, improve safety and help protect from situations that have the tendency of becoming potentially dangerous.

1. Awareness is prime-
Always keep your eyes open and head on your shoulders. To be mindful of possible risks can go a long way in keeping women safe.

2. Trust your instincts-
Go with your gut. If a situation makes you feel awkward, uncomfortable or unsafe, do anything it takes to get yourself out of there. Don't worry about what others may think or if time and conditions permit, try to be polite so as not to offend others. Your safety is top priority.

3. Mobile all the way- 
Carry your cell phone and make sure it's charged. Plan ahead and keep such women safety apps in there, or at least your dialer pad at hand for speed dial. Use it as an extra measure of safety. Know who you'd contact if a situation makes you uncomfortable; have their number fed in your cell phone so you can send a quick text for backup or call for help. If you're going out with friends, decide in advance where you'll meet and at what time, so if your phone dies out at all, they'll still find you.

4. The F***book- 
One of the biggest mistakes committed by women who get carried away by social media is 'checking in'! Think 10 times about what you may upload on Facebook or any other social networking site for that matter. When you use these sites to share where you are or where you're going, friends can find you but others may be able to track you as well. Use basic common sense and ask yourself- would you give this information to a stranger? If not, then don't share it online EVER!

5. Safety first- 
Your physical safety is priority over someone else's feelings being hurt. If you're with someone or you're in a situation that makes you feel unsafe, in that case, just do anything including lying to extract yourself from what's going on. Make any believable excuse as to why you have to leave and then get yourself to a safer place. It's easier to patch up someone's hurt feelings later (if at all you've misinterpreted the situation), than deal with the aftermath of being a sorry victim.

6. Make the loudest noise possible-
Don't keep quiet if you see something happening. Rapists are much less likely to continue their actions if they realize that they are being observed. If you see something questionable or believe another woman's safety is at risk, then step in then and there, speak up, and draw others' attention to what's happening, or call for help. Perpetrators try an average of six times, thus, one failed attack can equal five less victims. If you speak up and intervene, you've prevented one sexual assault crime from occurring and reduced the possibility of five other women being victimized in the future by the same pervert.

7. Stay Together- 
Friends should never let friends leave alone. If you and your friends are going out for the evening or headed to a party, go together. Arrive as a group, keep in contact with each other throughout the night, either face to face or by texting, and leave together. Remember the story of a bunch of sticks being harder to break than a single one. If you do need to leave your friends in any case, tell them where you're going and who you're going with.

8. Watch that drink-
Whether you're having liquor or sipping non-alcoholic beverages, keep your hand on your drink and be aware of it at all times. Tampering of drinks has become a common mode of getting women to pass out and often leads to sexual assault and the most heinous of other crimes like rape, human trafficking and even murders. In a bar, watch your drink being prepared. At a party, get your drink yourself or prepare it yourself and open up your own can or bottle; don't let somebody else do it. NEVER accept a drink or open can or bottle from someone you don't know or trust. If you somehow leave your drink unattended for any reason, throw it away and get a fresh one. Don't drink from common open containers. If you're drinking alcohol, know your limits and how much you can consume without losing control or awareness of what's going on around you.

9. A friend in need, is a friend indeed-
Make sure you've got your friends' backs and vice versa. Watching out for your friends and knowing that you can trust them to watch out for you is a bonus factor in preventing rape and sexual assaults. If a friend seems to be acting completely different from her normal behavior, or appears too intoxicated than she should be based on the amount of alcohol she's consumed, take care of her and get her to a safe place. If you think she's been drugged or you feel you've been drugged call your local emergency helpline number or at least your family. Don't hesitate or think that because of your intoxicated state, no one will believe you or that you'll be blamed for anything. When you see a doctor, explain him/her exactly what happened and any funny symptoms or behaviors so that they can run the correct laboratory tests for you.

10. The Safe Lift-
If you happen to use the lift at late nights or in deserted places, and some eerie looking or rather any man is with you in the brief journey, do not hesitate to press all the buttons uptil the floor you go to reach. The lift will open at each one, giving the guy chills to make any move at all.

If you are or know someone who has been affected by sexual violence, have this thing clear, it was not your fault! And you are not alone. Talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. Help is just a call or click away as these days many NGO's and anonymous forums help the victims deal with their misery and anxiety. Life is not fair to everyone, but then if it would be it would never be called a challenge, right? So stay aware, stay safe!

Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya
MGM University
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