Like many other substances, alcohol can inhibit a person's physical and mental abilities. In the context of sexual assault, this means that alcohol may make it easier for a perpetrator to commit a crime and can even prevent someone from remembering that the assault occurred.
What can I do to stay safe?
You can take steps to increase your safety in situations where drinking may be involved. These tips can help you feel more safe and may reduce the risk of something happening, but, like any safety tips, they are not foolproof. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, regardless of whether they were sober or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when it occurred.
- Keep an eye on your friends. If you are going out in a group, plan to arrive together and leave together. If you decide to leave early, let your friends know. If you’re at a party, check in with them during the night to see how they’re doing. If something doesn’t look right, step in. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about their safety.
- Have a backup plan. Sometimes plans change quickly. You might realize it’s not safe for you to drive home, or the group you arrived with might decide to go somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Download a rideshare app, like Uber, or keep the number for a reliable cab company saved in your phone and cash on hand in case you decide to leave.
- Know what you’re drinking. Don’t recognize an ingredient? Use your phone to look it up. Consider avoiding large-batch drinks like punches or “jungle juice” that may have a deceptively high alcohol content. There is no way to know exactly what was used to create these drinks.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, don’t ignore these feelings. Go with your gut. Get somewhere safe and find someone you trust or call law enforcement.
- Don’t leave a drink unattended. That includes when you use the bathroom, go dancing, or leave to make a phone call. Either take the drink with you or throw it out. Avoid using the same cup to refill your drink.
- Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust. This can be challenging in some settings, like a party or a date. If you choose to accept a drink from someone you’ve just met, try to go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
- Check in with yourself. You might have heard the expression “know your limits.” Whether you drink regularly or not, check in with yourself periodically to register how you feel.
- Be aware of sudden changes in the way your body feels. Do you feel more intoxicated than you should? Some drugs are odorless, colorless and/or tasteless, and can be added to your drink without you noticing. If you feel uncomfortable, tell a friend and have them take you to a safe place. If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and be upfront with healthcare professionals so they can administer the right tests.
- Ask yourself, “Would I do this if I was sober?” Alcohol can have an effect on your overall judgment. You wouldn’t drive, make medical decisions, or ride a bike while intoxicated. Many professionals, such as doctors, teachers, and pilots, cannot be drunk while doing their jobs. Given this context, is what you’re about to do a good idea? Will you be comfortable with your decision the next day?
- Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
- What Consent Looks Like
- Steps You Can Take to Prevent Sexual Assault
Even if you were consuming alcohol when a sexual assault occurred, remember it was not your fault. You are not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.