TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and making sure students are aware of how to stay safe.
WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks says sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority or when a victim does not or cannot consent. While most teens can never completely protect themselves from someone who may wish to do them harm, here are a few tips that you need to be alert to so that you can protect yourself or someone you care about. High schools and college campuses are focusing more attention on this issue due to the increase in incidents across the country.
Here's more of her advice:
- Be cognizant and aware of everything going on in your surroundings. It’s easy to take advantage of a person when they have earphones on or are hyper-focused on an electronic device of some kind. Do not be distracted.
- Be careful about revealing your location on the internet. Using the ‘check in” option on applications such as Facebook can also give someone vital information about your home or your location. Feel free to post your whereabouts after an event is already over.
- Teens, if you are going to a new location where you’ve never gone to before, give a quick call or text to let family know that you are on your way and let them know you have arrived safely at your destination.
- Go to social gatherings with your friends. If you arrive with your friend don’t’ leave without a friend. Stay loyal to the friends that you attend events with. If your friend gets too intoxicated, stay with them, try to get them home, and try not to ever leave anyone behind. Always carry extra money in case you have to get home.
- If you are in college, know your alcohol limits. Over half of sexual assaults committed against college students involve alcohol. If you are not in college, watch your drinks. Take your drink with you to the restroom if necessary. Never drink a beverage that has been given to you by someone else or taken out of a punch bowl.
- Trust your instincts. If you get a bad feeling about a location or person, leave immediately. Subconsciously process body language. These are often dangerous indicators. If someone feels wrong and you feel it, head in an entirely different direction. Trust your instincts about a situation if it feels bad.
- Be aggressive, loud and draw attention to yourself if you suspect you are in harm’s way. Do not be afraid to do this. Attackers are not willing to pursue you if you are aggressive.
- If you are already in an abusive situation, remember there are indeed support hot lines, there is “Love is Respect” and the National Domestic Abuse Hotline always available for information gathering but also for you. Document hostile communications. It can be emotionally painful to save threatening messages, texts, email and other hostile communications, however, they can be immediately useful to demonstrate a history of assault when you speak with counselors or authorities.
- If someone you know is assaulted, help the victim reach a safe location away from their assailant. Many victims blame themselves. Make sure you tell them it is not their fault. Be a supportive listener. Follow up with the victim a day or two later. Make sure they are still getting support.
- Both high school and college campuses are developing apps for creative new ways for students to reach safety during risky situations. Load any that your school or colleges have on your smart phones so that you can quickly access emergency contacts.
- Do not be afraid to call authorities when you find yourself in a situation that appears at risk. Remember safety is paramount and try to be an active bystander who can indeed help reduce the risk of a sexual assault.
Watch Teen Talk every other Monday at 6:30am on WTXL's Sunrise.