Assumptions

It is important to consider your personal perceptions of the world and your place within it. Are you generally trusting of others? Do you assume that you are immune to assault because you have a good rapport with the local community? Do you believe that you can tell if a person is a rapist just by looking at him/her? Do you assume a person is at fault when s/he is sexually assaulted/raped? Do you assume a victim of rape likely provoked or seduced the rapist? Do you assume that how a person dresses is a sign of how s/he wishes to be treated, including whether or not they may be asking for sexual aggression? How you understand the world, your role within it, and sexual assault/rape will influence how you respond to such an incident in the aftermath and long-term. It’s important to understand any assumptions you may have about the world and your place within it, including your views on sexual assault/rape.

It’s also important to understand your surroundings and to have a plan of action in place (including relevant telephone numbers) in the event that you or someone you know becomes the victim of a traumatic/critical incident, including sexual assault/rape.

Suggestions

  • Each situation, each perpetrator, and each victim is different and will handle a traumatic/critical incident differently.
  • There is not a “right way” to respond.
  • Listen to, and trust, your instincts. Even in the days and hours before the incident, you may have premonitions. Listen to those premonitions. You are likely sensing something from the environment around you.
  • If you sense that someone is aggressive or malevolent, do not assume you are wrong, mean or inappropriate in your thinking. Trust your gut.
  • You may assume that you would be able to fight back, if assaulted. However, fighting may elevate an already tense situation and may even lead to your death.
  • Carrying a weapon or using things that are at your disposal as weapons may aggravate your attacker/s. Understand that you may be putting yourself at greater risk by using them. Assess the situation and trust your instincts.
  • Negotiation may be critical. Try to humanize yourself in the eyes of the attacker. It may help to talk about family/friends in the attacker's life. It may help to make light jokes or to try to “befriend” the attacker/s. Try to manipulate your way onto the side of the attacker/s.
  • It may be helpful to mention your employer or to indicate that you hold a particular nationality, the government of which will seek the attacker/s out afterwards and that, for that reason, it is in the best interests of the attacker/s not to cause you harm. In this case, making yourself sound “important” may trigger some sense of fear/worry in the attacker/s.
  • If you are assaulted, offer your valuables, access to your bank account, whatever might convince the attacker/s that your belongings and finances would be more beneficial to them than harming you further.
  • You may not feel compelled to fight back at all or even to negotiate. Instead, your mind may escape elsewhere. This is entirely normal.
  • You may be able to take some of these steps, and they may help you. But, generally, the situation is entirely out of your control. It may be best to try to adhere to the rules set out by the attacker/s. Listen to your instincts to save your own life.


How you understand the world, your role within it, and sexual assault/rape influences how you respond - whether as the survivor or as a first responder to a survivor - in the aftermath and long-term of such an incident. If, for example, you believe you are unlikely to be assaulted because you have a positive rapport with the local community, you may blame the survivor (including yourself) if such an incident arises. Likewise, if you believe the clothes a person wears determines how s/he should be treated, you may inappropriately judge or blame the survivor (including yourself), if such an incident occurs.

It's important to understand your assumptions and how they shape your response following an incident. Sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor. There are no circumstances under which sexual assault is okay. It is our responsibility to reshape our thoughts about sexual assault and rape and ensure the best possible support and care are give to survivors - including ourselves.

The suggestions below are provided as guidance but can - in no way - determine whether or not sexual assault or rape will occur.

Suggestions

  • Do not assume that you can recognize a rapist just by looking at a person. A rapist may be someone you know. A rapist may be friendly, may seem “normal”, may appear non-threatening, and may also have a spouse and children. A rapist could also be your supervisor or your colleague.
  • Each situation, each perpetrator, and each victim is different and will handle a situation of sexual assault differently.
  • There is not a “right way” to respond.
  • Listen to, and trust, your instincts. Even in the days and hours before you are assaulted, you may have premonitions. Listen to those premonitions. You are likely sensing something from the environment around you.
  • If you sense that someone is aggressive or malevolent, do not assume you are wrong, mean or somehow inappropriate in your thinking. Trust your gut.
  • A situation of sexual assault/rape is often life-threatening. You may need to take measures to save your life. This could mean “allowing” sexual touching to prevent rape, or it could mean “allowing” rape to prevent murder. You may need to assess the situation and respond accordingly. However, you are not to blame for what happens. You are taking life-saving measures.
  • You may assume that you would be able to fight back. However, fighting may elevate an already tense situation and may even lead to your death.
  • Carrying a weapon or using things that are at your disposal as weapons may aggravate your attacker/s. Understand that you may be putting yourself at greater risk by using them. Assess the situation and trust your instincts.
  • Negotiation may be critical. Try to humanize yourself in the eyes of the attacker. It may help to talk about the attacker's family/friends/the women in the attacker's life. It may help to make light jokes or to try to “befriend” the attacker/s. Try to manipulate your way onto the side of the attacker/s.
  • It may be helpful to mention your employer or to say that you hold a particular nationality, the government of which will seek the attacker/s out afterwards and that, for that reason, it is in the best interests of the attacker/s not to cause you harm. In this case, making yourself sound “important” may trigger some sense of fear/worry in the attacker/s.
  • Offer your valuables, access to your bank account, whatever might convince the attacker/s that your belongings and finances would be more beneficial to them than proceeding with the sexual assault/rape.
  • You may not feel compelled to fight back at all or even to negotiate. Instead, your mind may escape elsewhere. You may even have an overwhelming wish to die rather than endure sexual assault or the emotional challenges that accompany such a horrific experience. These emotions are entirely normal.
  • You may be able to take some of these steps, and they may help you. But, generally, the situation is entirely out of your control. It may be best to try to adhere to the rules set out by the attacker/s. Listen to your instincts to save your own life.

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