Like many other substances, alcohol can inhibit a person’s physical and mental abilities. In the context of sexual assault, this means that alcohol may make it easier for a perpetrator to commit a crime and can even prevent someone from remembering that the assault occurred.
Tips to Help You Stay Safe
You can take steps to increase your safety in situations where drinking may be involved. These tips may reduce the risk of something happening. Though it is best to stay safe while under the influence of alcohol, it’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, regardless of whether they were sober or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when it occurred.
• Keep an eye on your friends. If you are going out in a group, plan to arrive together and leave together. If you decide to leave early, let your friends know. If you’re at a party, check in with them during the night to see how they’re doing. If something doesn’t look right, step in. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about their safety.
• Have a backup plan. Sometimes plans change quickly. You might realize it’s not safe for you to drive home, or the group you arrived with might decide to go somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Keep the number for a reliable taxi company saved in your phone and on a piece of paper in your wallet and try to have cash on hand. It is also a good idea to download a few different rideshare apps on your phone. Having multiple options helps ensure that you will be able to get a ride home or to a safe location, even if the app you typically use is not functioning. To help keep your phone charged so you can stay in communication with friends or call a ride, consider bringing an external cell phone charger that can be used without an electrical outlet.
• Know what you’re drinking. Don’t recognize an ingredient? Use your phone to look it up. Consider avoiding large-batch drinks like punches that may have a deceptively high alcohol content.
• Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, don’t ignore these feelings. Go with your gut. Get somewhere safe and find someone you trust, or call law enforcement.
• Don’t leave a drink unattended. That includes when you use the bathroom, go dancing, or leave to make a phone call. Either take the drink with you or throw it out. Avoid using the same cup to refill your drink.
• Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust. This can be challenging in some settings, like a party or a date. If you choose to accept a drink from someone you’ve just met, try to go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
• Check in with yourself. You might have heard the expression “know your limits.” Whether you drink regularly or not, check in with yourself periodically to register how you feel. If you think you have had too much, ask a trusted friend to help you get water or get home safely. You can always say “no” to alcohol.
• Be aware of sudden changes in the way your body feels. Do you feel more intoxicated than you are comfortable with? Some drugs are odorless, colorless and/or tasteless, and can be added to your drink without you noticing. If you feel uncomfortable, tell a friend and have them take you to a safe place. If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and tell the healthcare professionals that you suspect you or a friend have been drugged so they can administer the right tests.
Even if you were consuming alcohol when a sexual assault occurred, remember it was not your fault. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at https://hotline.rainn.org/online.