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SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION

Public Record Resources



The Gift of Fear: Survival Instincts That Protect Us From Violence

The Gift of Fear:
Survival Instincts That
Protect Us From Violence



A Family Guide for Sexual Assault Prevention

A Better Safe Than
Sorry: A Family Guide
for Sexual Assault
Prevention



How to Bodyguard Yourself: A Person Protecton Guide for Women

Bodyguard Yourself:
A Personal Protection
Guide for Women



The Complete Guide to Personal and Home Safety

The Complete Guide
to Personal and
Home Safety



body Language Secrets: A Guide During Courtship & Dating

Body Language Secrets:
A Guide During Courtship
& Dating



Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relations

Nonverbal Behavior in
Interpersonal Relations



When You Say yes But Mean No: Silencing Conflict Wrecks Relationships

When You Say Yes
But Mean No: Silencing
Conflict Wrecks Relationships

SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION: Strategies for Safety



A basic tenent of criminology is that three factors, called "the crime triangle", must be in place for a crime to occur: First, there must be a perpetrator willing to commit the crime. Second, there must be a victim or target of the perpetrator's actions; and third, the perpetrator and victim must be together at the same place at the same time, in a situation with inadequate guardianship - meaning that there are unchecked circumstances that lend themselves to the commission of the crime (elements such as a lack of witnesses, a victim incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, and the inner belief of perpetrators that either the crime won't be reported, or that even IF reported, they'll still get away with it).


The Victim to Perpetrator Line

Most prevention strategies for ANY crime center around breaking one side of the triangle to prevent the commission of the crime OR by increasing guardianship to levels high enough to turn a willing perpetrator into an UNwilling one. But this is often easier said than done, because really, many approaches just aren't practical. Certainly victims could reduce chances for victimization by building an impenetrable fortress and never leaving it - essentially blocking any access to a would-be perpetrator - but what kind of life is THAT? Humans are social animals, and it's important for our mental health to interact with each other, to have friendships and relationships, to build families, and to have all of the opportunities that life allows us. We also enjoy our privacy, meaning that simply surrounding oneself with lots of people to watch your back 24 hours a day isn't healthy either. So preventative measures designed to keep us safe must find a balance between enhancing safety, but not be SO overwhelming as to mimic incarceration, while still allowing for time alone and with others.

One aspect of the criminal justice system is incarceration for offenders; which in part seeks to remove perpetrators from society to reduce their access to future victims. The problem here is that incarceration only works if there has been a conviction AND a sentence that puts the offender behind bars and not just on probation, and it sadly only comes into play AFTER someone has ALREADY been victimized. So while it might LESSEN that offender's ability to commit MORE crimes, it STILL means that SOMEONE has suffered a crime already.

The Other Options

It follows then that since any given person could potentially be either a perpetrator OR a victim, prudence suggests that the approach to reduce victimization is to lessen the opportunities for perpetrators to commit crimes against us; either by increasing levels of guardianship to make perpetrators unwilling to commit the crime, or, by enhancing, manipulating, or mastering locations and situations to remove opportunities for willing perpetrators.

These precautions are suggestions for minimizing your chances of victimization. By reducing the opportunity for crime against you, whether in your home, in your car, on the street, or just "hanging out", you reduce the risk of being victimized. While it is impossible to prevent any and all crimes, a majority of reported crimes contain specific elements that created increased risk - and knowing what elements contribute to the problem gives us insight on where extra vigilence can be effective for personal safety or for being the victim of ANY type of crime.


SAFETY IN YOUR HOME

Other than domestic violence (which requires consideration of a separate type of safety plan), the majority of crimes that occur in a victim's home occur for one of two main reasons: either there is some SPECIFIC REASON that the offender is targeting that particular home, or, the home was chosen because it was an convenient or easy target, a crime of opportunity.

Specific reasons often center around what the offender expects to gain from committing the crime; whether it is to commit a crime against a specific victim, or to try to target specific property that the offender thinks might be in the home, such as drugs, guns, or other valuables. For example, setting empty product boxes at the curb that advertise that there is a new TV, Wii, computer, or other attractive "target" in your home won't go un-noticed - which is fine if it only garners comments of envy from neighbors, but can increase chances for victimization should a willing perpetrator come across that knowledge.

Much more common is the chosing of a target because it is deemed to be "easy pickings". Easy to get in. Easy to commit the crime without being seen coming or going. And particularly if the offender doesn't anticipate much resistance,either from the victim or from others who might be in the home (a key reason why the elderly suffer from increased rates of rape against them - because perpetrators don't anticipate much of a struggle).

Tips to increase safety at home include:

  • All exterior doors should be made of solid wood core.

  • Use good quality deadbolt locks on all exterior doors, including the door from the garage to the house, and from a basement to the house if the basement has a window, coal chute, or other outside access.

  • Have the locks on all exterior doors re-keyed when you move into a new house or apartment or when roommates or other persons with access to your home are no longer welcome.

  • Keep your garage door shut when not in use. Remember that your garage remote is also a key of sorts. Remember to re-code your remote and opener to prevent unauthorized access. Do this NOW - if you keep your remote on the default setting, anyone can open your garage door by simply buying a replacement opener! Change the code again if you have persons who are no longer welcome in your home. Your local police department, sheriff's office, crime prevention organization, or hardware store can help with this. Perpetrators looking for easy targets have been known to buy a bunch of remotes set on the default setting and just drive around pushing the buttons until they find doors that open for them - don't let yours be one!

  • Install a peephole viewer with a minimum 180 degree viewing angle to the front door and get in the habit of checking it BEFORE you open the door...EVERY TIME - get in the habit.

  • Install key locks to secure sliding glass doors. Since these doors can be shaken off their tracks if there is enough "play" in them, it's also a good idea to put a dowel in the door so that it can't be rocked. Dowels can be obtained from your local hardware store and cut to your measurements for less than $5.

  • Good lighting is a deterrant to crime. Install adequate exterior lighting at all entrances. Lights that come on with motion sensors are even better.

  • Don't open your door to strangers. Never let anyone into your house to use the phone, even for an emergency. Offer to make the call for them, but don't let them inside. You are always better safe than sorry here so don't hesitate to call the police for assistance.

  • Request identification from all repairmen and maintenance persons. You can even request identification from people claiming to be police officers. The police will NOT think you are crazy if you dial 911 to find out if the cop at your door is really a cop (this author used to be the one ANSWERING those 911 calls!) Impersonating an officer is a common ruse used by perpetrators to gain entry into a victim's home. If you don't see a marked police vehicle through the peephole, or if the visitor says they are a private investigator or plain clothes detective, call to find out.

  • Don't advertise that you are home alone or that your home might be unoccupied. Keep a light on in more than one room to make it appear that you may not be alone. Lamp timers are great for creating the impression of multiple people being home, as well as for use when you're away from home. Remember, most rapists and burglars are opportunists and if you can increase their belief that confrontation is possible, easier targets may be sought.

  • Keeping extra keys hidden outside your home can be dangerous. Perpetrators know all the best spots like "hide-a-rock", under the doormat, under a potted plant, etc. If you're got to keep one out (for example, as a backup for your kids who get home before you), then don't put the extra key anywhere near the door. Put it somewhere that is NOT convenient and thus not likely to be found (for example, in a ziplock bag, buried at the edge of a flower garden, or stuck behind the airconditioning unit with a magnetic key holder). Give extra keys to a trusted neighbor and always notify them if you have someone that will need the key in advance.

  • Pay attention to your landscaping! Other than lighting, this is one of the best elements that you can alter to deter crimes at home. Is your home easily visible from the street? Is your address/house number easy to see if police or EMS are trying to find you? Do plants or shrubs obscure your windows and provide places to hide or cover for someone wanting to pry open a window?

  • Contact your local police department or sheriffs office. Most departments will happily give you a free home security survey.

  • Many of these suggestions are part of an overall concept called "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design"; the goal of which is to increase elements of one's surroundings that enhance safety, while decreasing elements that invite or foster criminal activity. Check the right menu column for resources specific to the concept of CTPED.

SAFETY WHILE DRIVING AND IN YOUR CAR
  • Park in well lit areas.

  • Always lock your car, whether you are inside or the car is parked.

  • Have your keys in your hand when heading to your car and stay alert of your surroundings while aproaching your car.

  • If working late, try to go to your car in the company of a friend or security guard. If this is not possible, try to move your vehicle close to the office before sunset.

  • Get in the habit of looking inside your car and the back seat before you get into the vehicle.

  • If you have car trouble, raise your hood and put on your emergency flashers. Wait for help inside the car with the doors locked. If possible, try to pull into a well lit area or under a street light.

  • If you're thinking about stopping to help someone else on the side of the road, remember that you should go to the nearest phone and call the police to assist them. They get faster service from the towing companies than you ever will.

  • Don't pull over for flashing headlights. If it is an emergency vehicle there will be red and/or blue flashing lights, usually on top of the car. If the lights are at the front of the car, it may be a "low profile" law enforcement vehicle. If your'Even during a legitimate traffic stop, always pull into a well lit area that is visible from the road.

SAFETY ON THE STREET & OUT IN PUBLIC
  • Always be alert and aware.

  • If you are being harassed by someone, always head towards lights or people.

  • If you think you are being followed, DO NOT GO HOME. Head for a well lit area, a crowded area, or an open business with people around, like a convenience store.

  • Don't hitchhike.

  • If something doesn't feel right, TRUST YOUR FEELINGS. Don't feel pressured to "go along". It's ok to wait for the next elevator, or take another cab, or whatever if someone's presence makes you uneasy.

  • If you use laudromats, plan to go with a neighbor or friend.

  • Take SPECIAL precautions when traveling, remember, rapists are opportunists, and tourists generally have a more relaxed posture concerning their safety.


SAFETY WITH FRIENDS & IN RELATIONSHIPS
  • First, understand that the majority of sex-related crimes are committed by someone the victim knows!

  • Second, be aware that the victim's home is the most common location (other than the offender's home) for sexual assault to occur. Homes, yours or theirs, should NOT be the first place where you meet someone alone early in the relationship, and especially for a first in-person meeting.

  • When out at clubs or bars, always keep your drink in your hand. If you must leave your drink, order a fresh one when you get back. Leaving a drink unattended opens the door for date-rape drugs to find their way into your system.

  • It is particularly important to be with people that you know and can trust if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

  • Be honest with your friends and acquaintences. When you mean "NO", be sure that not only your voice, but your body language or non-verbal actions or postures are saying "NO".

  • Honor your RIGHT to control your own life and your experiences, including the right to decline any level of sexual activity, at any time, with anyone. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into sexual activity that you don't want or don't feel good about.

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Last Updated: March 16, 2011