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Warning Signs: Red Flags for Sexual Assault

There is no way to reduce your risk of sexual assault to zero and even if you do not recognize these as warning signs, sexual assault is NOT YOUR FAULT. Rapists are responsible for their actions, you are not.

Anyone can be a rapist. Statistics show that most victims are assaulted by someone they know, an acquaintance, family member, friend, dating partner or spouse. It may be hard to believe that you could be hurt by someone you know. Remember that rapists and abusers are manipulative and deceitful. They are adept at creating situations where they can take advantage of a person's trust and good will. Studies have shown that there are some people who are more likely to be sexually aggressive than others. Watch out for people that:

•  do not listen to you, ignore what you say, talk over you or pretend not to hear you. Such perpetrators generally have little respect for their victims and would be more likely to hear "no" as meaning "convince me."

•  ignore your personal space boundaries. Stand or walk too close or touch you without permission.

•  push you to drink beyond your tolerance level or wait to make a sexual advance until you are extremely intoxicated. Alcohol is the #1 date rape drug.

•  express anger or aggression frequently. Hostile feelings can easily be translated into hostile acts. Such people often get hostile when someone tells them "no."

•  use hostile or possessive language about their victims. They use words like bitch, whore, or stupid or other derogatory language. They may refer to their partner as their possession. This shows that the perpetrator doesn't see others as human-beings, but as an objects that s/he owns and can do with others what s/he wants.

•  do what they want regardless of what you want. A person may do this in little ways--for example, by making all the decisions about what you both will do.

•  decide where to go without asking your opinionólater they may be likely to make the decision about whether you are ready to have sex with them.

•  try to make you feel guilty, or accuse you of being "uptight" if you resist their sexual overtures.

•  act excessively jealous or possessive.

•  prevent you from seeing or talking to friends or family members. Keep you isolated and separated from your support network.

•  have wrong or unrealistic ideas about women (for example, "women are meant to serve men"). Such perpetrators are not likely to take objections to sex seriously.

•  drink heavily. A "mean drunk" can often get sexually aggressive, angry, or violent if s/he is rejected.

If you or someone you know has been hurt:

Campus Advocacy Network

Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Abuse

After an Assault

Adapted from: Friends Raping Friends, Could it Happen to You? The Project on the Status and Education of Women, Association of American Colleges, 1997


This project was supported by Grant No. 2002-WA-BX-0011 awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.