Rape is a crime which affects all members of society - its victims and those close to them. The more informed citizens are about the crime of rape, the better prepared they will be to prevent it.
What is Rape?
Rape is an act of sexual intercourse, perpetrated against a man or woman without their consent.
- An employee can be raped by a boss.
- A teenager can be raped by a date.
- A person can be raped by a spouse.
Although not as common, the incidence of males sexually assaulting other males is on the increase. Thus, whenever discussing the crime of rape, it is important to remember that women are not the only victims.
On the Street
- Travel in well-lit, well-traveled areas.
- If possible, walk in pairs.
- Walk facing traffic.
- Plan your route ahead of time.
- Know your neighborhood - be aware of nearby businesses, their hours of operation and their locations.
- Avoid shortcuts, bushy areas, and alleyways.
- Dress for ease of movement.
- If possible, don't carry a purse.
- Don't burden yourself with bulky packages or belongings.
- Walk assertively and maintain a sharp awareness of your surroundings.
- If you sense you are being followed, immediately cross to the opposite side of the street and head for the nearest open business or occupied dwelling.
- When seeking help from the occupant of a residence, yell fire as opposed to help, rape, or murder, and use any means necessary to draw attention to the situation.
In the Home
- Install good locks on doors and windows and use them.
- Only put your last name on your mailbox, or consider inventing roommates.
- If you choose to list your phone number, only list your first initial and last name. Never include your address in the telephone book.
- Install an eye-viewer in your door.
- Never automatically open your door without knowing who is on the other side. Talk through the door.
- Don't rely on chain latches and screen doors for security as they are no barrier to intruders.
- Instruct your children in safe door and telephone techniques.
- Don't answer questions asked over the telephone.
- Ask for identification from service people. If still not satisfied, call the business and verify that the visit is a legitimate one.
- Have someone present whenever a man is going to be performing a service in your home.
In Your Vehicle
- Have your keys in your hand when going to and from your vehicle.
- Lock the doors and roll up the windows whenever you leave your vehicle.
- Keep the doors and windows locked whenever you are in your vehicle.
- Prior to entering your vehicle, always check both under the car and behind the front seat.
- Park in well-lit, well populated areas.
- Be aware of your surroundings as you walk through parking lots - suspects often hide between parked cars.
- If your car breaks down, raise the hood and turn on the emergency flashers. Remain in your locked car until help arrives. If someone stops to offer assistance, ask them to send a tow truck or to contact local law enforcement. Talk through the window.
- If you are being followed, don't turn into your own driveway. Head for the nearest populated area or open business.
In a Social Situation
- When first meeting a new friend, exchange phone numbers, not addresses.
- Keep someone apprised of your whereabouts when dating a man for the first time.
- It is a good idea to refrain from going to bars and clubs alone. However, should you choose to do so, have your own transportation available, and use it.
- Don't allow alcohol or drugs to cloud your common sense.
- If a man persists in asking for your phone number, and you feel it would cause a problem should you refuse, give him a phony number (i.e., a recorded message).
- Know what your personal social standards are and stick to them. Don't allow your judgment to be overruled by an aggressive pursuer.
Additional Safety Tips
- Don't enter elevators with a lone man. If you do end up alone with a man, stand next to the buttons and push them all if attacked.
- When at the bank, don't discard deposit slips in the available receptacle - they contain information (i.e., name and address) which you would not want falling into the hands of strangers.
- Consider printing your work phone number as opposed to your home phone number on checks.
Self-Defense – Passive or Active
For years a certain amount of controversy has surrounded the issue of whether or not a woman should resist a sexual assault. Studies support points of view ranging from strong resistance to total submission. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to self-defense. Ultimately, the decision rests with the individual and should be based on considerations such as the location (isolated vs. populated), whether or not a weapon is involved, the victim's physical capabilities, and the perceived chance of success.
- Talking your way out of a situation.
- Telling the rapist you're pregnant, menstruating, or afflicted with a communicable disease can be an effective ploy.
- Faking submission and waiting for an appropriate opportunity to make an escape.
- Urinating, defecating, or vomiting.
- NOTE: Initiating a passive defense may not work in all situations. If it fails, you can then escalate to an active defense.
- If you choose to fight, fight effectively. A half-hearted attempt at resistance could be worse than no resistance at all.
- Before initiating a physical defense, you should be aware of your capabilities - both physical and mental. If you cannot imagine yourself exerting whatever force necessary to ward off an attacker, then perhaps a more passive approach is more viable for you.
- Have some idea of what you intend to do should you be attacked. If you have given prior thought to the matter, you will be better prepared to avoid debilitating panic.
- Self-defense classes aimed at teaching everyday defensive maneuvers can help build confidence.
- Don't underestimate the power of your voice as an effective defensive tool. If you feel your voice may fail you when you need it most, practice screaming.
- Whistle: A good attention-getting device. However, whistles can be difficult to blow when breathless or frightened. Should you carry a whistle, never wear it on a string around your neck or wrist.
- Shrill Alarm: Another good-attention getting device. Shrill alarms are compressed air or gas and emit a shrill piercing sound.
- Mace: A chemical irritant which causes burning and irritation of the eyes, nose, and skin. Mace will not permanently incapacitate an attacker. It is primarily useful as a temporary diversion. Because mace is considered a non-lethal weapon, you must attend a class and obtain a permit in order to legally purchase and carry mace. While mace can be an effective defensive device, it does not work in all situations. Mace has little or no effect on individuals who are seriously intoxicated, under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, or who have a condition which affects the nerve endings. If used on a windy day or in an enclosed area, mace could affect not only the suspect, but the victim as well.
NOTE: For these devices to be useful, they must be immediately accessible should you be attacked. If left in trunks, desk drawers, or buried at the bottom of a purse, they will not help you in an emergency.
Reporting a Rape
Call 911 in an emergency.
Call 264-5471 to report a rape.
Over the years there has been a great deal of negative publicity devoted to the treatment of sexual assault victims by the criminal justice system. In the past, victims often felt that they, rather than the rapist, were on trial. Victims' prior sexual conduct became a routine part of court testimony, thereby raising questions regarding the victims’ morality and, therefore, the validity of the sexual assault charge. Fortunately, the last few years have brought about a sensitization of the criminal justice system to the plight of the sexual assault victim. Recent legislation has blocked the admissibility of questions relating to the victim's sex life. Additionally, law enforcement agencies are beginning to realign their approach to the investigation of rape cases by using specially trained sexual assault investigators who are sensitive to the needs and concerns of a sexual assault victim.
What to Expect When You Report
When you first report a rape, a uniformed officer will respond to your location. His or her first responsibility is to secure your safety and well-being.
The officer will take a brief statement from you and will then transport you to the hospital for a rape examination. You may have a friend, relative, or Rape Crisis counselor with you throughout this process. In order to preserve valuable evidence, it is imperative that you neither bathe, douche, nor change clothes prior to reporting the rape. In addition, it is advisable to leave the crime scene undisturbed. Bedding, items touched by the suspect, cigarette butts, etc. can yield vital information regarding the identity of your assailant.
A day or two later, an investigator from the Sexual Assaults Section will contact you for a more detailed statement.
Should an arrest be made, and should the case go to trial, you will undoubtedly be asked to testify. Keep in mind that rape trials are no longer the horror stories once depicted. A counselor from Rape Crisis can alleviate your concerns somewhat by letting you know what to expect and by accompanying you throughout the court process.