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June 26, 2016

Are You Safe?

Imagine that you have gone out for dinner and drinks with someone you know. Perhaps he's someone you've met only recently, or he could be a long-time friend. Maybe he's someone you've been dating for a while. He could even be your boyfriend.

Now, imagine that something goes wrong. Without realizing it, you have too much to drink. Way too much. Maybe you got carried away and didn't pay attention to just how many drinks you'd had. (Or is it possible someone tampered with the drinks?) In any case, you start to feel woozy, and before you know what is happening, you pass out.

What do you expect your friend to do?

What I expect is that my friend will check to see if I need medical attention. If I'm unconscious and he can't wake me up, I expect him to call 911. I expect him to be concerned for my health, and to do whatever is necessary to make sure I'm safe.

I expect him to do what any normal, decent person would do.

Unfortunately, not everyone is normal or decent.

You may have read about the case of Brandon Vandenburg, who carried his unconscious date into a dorm room and allowed her to be raped by three other men. He apparently found the assault quite entertaining, encouraging the rapists and taking videos of the incident. In the following days, he concealed evidence, and continued to cultivate a relationship with the woman, who did not remember being gang raped because she had remained unconscious while it was happening.

In addition to the pure evil of this man and the other rapists, there is the contemptible indifference of the bystanders who did nothing to help.

But this article isn't really about them. It's about the safety of women, especially young women on college campuses, where stories like this are all too common.

Sadly, it seems the best way to be safe is to trust no one.

Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.
  • Don't get drunk. Overindulgence is not healthy. When you're drunk, you don't exercise good judgment and you don't have control over your situation. Even under the best of circumstances, you will feel rotten in the morning.
  • I could say avoid alcohol altogether, but alcohol in moderation is not usually the problem. The problem is "date rape drugs" which can be slipped into any kind of drink, including plain water. To protect yourself, you need to be diligent with your drink. If you're at a bar, don't let someone get a drink for you. Go to the bar, watch the drink being made, and take it from the server yourself. Wherever you are, keep your hand over your drink, and take the drink with you when you go to the restroom.
  • If you start to feel lightheaded or ill, get help immediately.
  • Use a buddy system. If you and your friends are at the same party or event, keep an eye on each other and intervene if someone appears to be having trouble. If you are on a date or at an event without your friends, have a system of checking in with each other at regular intervals.
  • Have account with a ride service, like Uber or Lyft, that you can call if you can't drive. If you aren't comfortable with that, have some money concealed inside your clothing (in case you lose your purse) so you can take a taxi if you need to get away from your date.
  • Don't be shy about calling someone, including your parents, to come pick you up.
  • Know the location of emergency services on campus, including emergency call boxes.

Even before you are on that date, taking those precautions, think about who you are going out with. It's not always easy to spot a bad guy, because people, even rapists, usually make an effort to present themselves in a positive light. But sometimes there are clues.
  • How does he treat you? Is he respectful? Does he make jokes at your expense? Is he prone to crude sexual remarks? Is he too grabby? Does he follow up on promises, or does he make cheap excuses? Does he make you feel good about yourself? What would your father or your best friend think about the way he treats you? Someone who doesn't respect you is not someone you can trust.
  • What are his friends like? How do they talk about women? How do they treat their girlfriends? Would you feel safe if left alone with one of them? While it's not always fair to judge people by the company they keep, the reality is that people tend to hang out with others who share the same values.
  • What do people who know him say about him? What do other women who have dated him say?
  • Trust your gut. If you just feel that there is something suspicious about someone, even without a logical reason, avoid that person.

And please, if you see something, say something. A bunch of guys carrying an unconscious woman is a bad sign. One guy, supporting an unconscious woman on the way out the door, is a bad sign. Anyone becoming unconscious is a bad sign. If you can safely intervene, do so. It may be helpful to recruit some friends to help you intervene. If you don't think it's safe or effective to intervene, call the police. Always be willing to call an ambulance or the police for someone who needs help.

Stay safe.

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