Following are some alternatives to sexual vulnerability for women in sexual relationships.
- Be an active partner in a relationship. When arranging to be with someone, where to meet, what to do, and when to be intimate should all be shared decisions.
- Know you sexual intentions and limits. You have the right to say “NO” to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are uncertain about what you want, ask the man to respect your feelings.
- Communicate your limits firmly and directly. If you say “No”, say it like you mean it. Don’t give mixed messages. Back up your words with a firm tone voice and clear body language.
- Don’t rely on “ESP” to get your message across. Don’t assume that your date will automatically know how you feel, or will eventually “get the message” without your having to tell him.
- Remember that some people think that drinking heavily, dressing provocatively, or going to another person’s room indicates a willingness to have sex. Be especially careful to communicate your limits and intentions clearly in such situations.
- Listen to your gut feelings. If you feel threatened. If you feel uncomfortable or think you may be at risk. Leave the situation immediately and go to safe place.
- Don’t be afraid to “make waves” if you feel threatened. If you feel you are being pressured or coerced into sexual activity against your will, don’t hesitate to state your feelings and get out of the situation. Better a few minutes of social awkwardness or embarrassment than the trauma of sexual assault.
- Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to “look out” for one another. Try to leave with group, rather than alone or with someone you don’t’ know very well.
When we think about alternatives to vulnerability, we must be careful not to assume that there is always something the victim “could have done” to prevent an assault. This is blaming the victim. When a person is sexually assaulted, it is the assault who is to blame.
In addition, sexual assaults, including those committed by acquaintances, may be violent and unexpected. This means that even when the victim is able to assert what s/he wants, there is no guarantee that his/her feelings will be respected.
There are no formulas that can guarantee our safety from sexual assault. In a situation that is becoming coercive or violent, the moment is often too confusing to plan an escape, and different people react in various ways. Some will fight back. Others will not fight back for any number of reasons such as fear, self-blame, or not wanting to hurt someone who may be a close friend. While fighting and giving up are both extreme reactions, it’s important to realize that any reaction is legitimate. Again the burden of responsibility must be on the attacker, not the victim.