The State of Florida uses the term sexual battery; others call it sexual battery or rape. It is all the same thing, a violent crime that uses sex as a weapon, that effects our communities and universities nationwide. Some people have the wrong idea about sexual battery. They think the attacker was overcome with sexual desire, the victim was dressed too seductively, or the victim asked for it. These ideas assume that sexual battery is motivated by sexual desire. It is a violent crime, a hostile attack, and an attempt to hurt, humiliate, and control the victim. Sex is only the weapon.
Sexual Battery is defined by Florida Law as oral, anal or vaginal penetration by or union with, the sex organ of another or oral, anal or vaginal penetration by an another with any object. Sexual. Rape is sexual intercourse with a person against her/his will through force, threats, or intimidation. There is a big is a difference between consent and submission out of fear. If you fear for your life, your physical safety, or the life and safety of a loved one, you may sincerely believe you have no other alternative than to submit to a sexual act. This does not mean that you have consented to it. The decision to resist or not to resist can only be made by the person who is attacked.
You are a victim of a crime if you have had unwanted sexual contact. Sexual battery is no less serious if you know your attacker. Previous sexual contact with your attacker does not justify or excuse the crime. If you think sexual battery is motivated by passion or happens because the victim asked for or wanted it, look at the facts. Sexual battery can happen to anyone – you, your children, co-workers, or friends, or other members of your family. The victim can be any age, race, have any income level and live in the city or in the country. It can happen to anyone.
Anyone May Become A Victim
Sexual battery awareness is based on environmental alertness. Remember alcohol and drugs dull your senses and judgement. When uncomfortable, trust your instincts!
The Situation – Perhaps you think sexual battery happens only in certain high-risk situations such as hitchhiking, walking alone at night, or going out socially alone. It’s true that sexual battery can occur in such situations, but it also takes place in ordinary, seemingly safe places. In fact, about one-third of all rapes occur in or near the victim’s residence. About one-half of the rapes are by first or casual dates or romantic acquaintances.
The Assailant – It is important to be aware that most sexual offenders don’t look abnormal or act strangely. In fact, perpetrators of rape and battery are not always strangers to their victims. In many cases, the assailant is an acquaintance, neighbor, friend, or relative.
Acquaintances – Date rape prevention involves educating both young men and young women. Men need to understand that NO means NO. The only thing they are owed for a date is thank you. Men need to understand that they have the right and responsibility to communicate clearly–to say what they mean and want. They need to trust their instincts and learn to stay out of risky situations.
Find out about a new date. Ask others who know or have dated the person. Date with friends before accepting a single date. Make definite plans in advance. Inform a friend, roommate or someone else you trust of your plans, who you will be with and when you plan to return.
Take your own vehicle or meet at the destination. Carry money for a phone call or fare home.
Avoid parties where men greatly outnumber women. Don’t leave a group setting with a person you don’t know.
Attend parties in small groups where possible.
Be wary of behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable. If it persists, leave. Stand up for yourself.
Avoid secluded places where you are put in a vulnerable position.
Be careful when inviting someone to your residence or accepting an invitation to theirs.
If someone is pressuring you, say that you don’t like it-and mean it.
Women need to learn that it’s O.K. to refuse a date. They need to trust their instincts.
Prevention of any crime begins with awareness. Become aware of your surroundings and stay tuned in for possible danger or threats to your safety. Here are some tips for adding this awareness to your daily life.
Be sure the doors of your residence are locked when you are there as well as when away.
Use peepholes to identify people before opening the door.
Make sure that all windows are properly secured.
Never indicate to anyone that you are alone.
Never let strangers inside your residence to use the phone. Offer to make the call for them.
Use blinds or draperies for privacy.
Avoid being in isolated areas such as laundries or parking areas alone, especially at night.
List your initials instead of your first name on your mailbox and in the telephone directory.
Always have your key ready for quick entry.
Have a telephone with a lighted keypad readily available near your bed for quick use at night.
If you find a door or window open or signs of forced entry upon arriving at your residence, don’t enter. Go to the nearest phone and call the police.
Avoid walking alone! On campus, use the Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP), a free campus safety escort service. Request a ride from the “TapRide” app found on both Google Play & iTunes or via telephone at 392- SNAP (7627). SNAP operates from 6:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. during the Fall and Spring semesters and from 8:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. during the Summer semester. SNAP does not operate during UF breaks or during official holidays.
UFPD & UF Student Government also offer another free safety app. “TapShield” is full of features designed to help keep you safe and offer you a way to text with UFPD dispatch if you need assistance. Find more information here: TapShield App
Stay in well-lighted areas, away from alleys, bushes, and entryways.
Walk on the side of the street facing traffic.
If a driver stops to ask directions, avoid getting close to the car.
If a car appears to be following you, turn and walk in the opposite direction and find a populated location to get assistance. Also be sure to call police.
Don’t hitchhike and only accept rides from people you know well.
Always be alert and aware. If someone bothers you, don’t be embarrassed to attract attention to yourself. Yell!
Always try to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
Traveling in Your Car
Have your keys ready when you approach the vehicle.
Check inside your vehicle before entering.
Always lock your doors, both when driving and when parked.
Park in well-lighted areas.
Avoid isolated roads and shortcuts.
Keep your vehicle in good repair and make certain you have enough fuel.
If your vehicle breaks down, raise the hood or display a sign. Stay in the vehicle with the doors locked and the windows rolled up. If someone stops to offer you help, roll the window down slightly and ask the person to call for assistance.
If you are followed, drive to the nearest open business for help, or go to a police or fire station.
If involved in a minor collision at night or in an isolated area, do not exit to inspect the damage or contact the other driver. Signal the other driver with your lights, and proceed to the nearest lighted and occupied business or police station.
KNOW YOUR DEFENSES
Anyone can be a victim of sexual battery. You should think about the kinds of defense you would be willing to use. A 1989 FBI study shows that there is no correlation between a victim who resists and the amount of physical injury she sustains. 71% of victims avoid being raped by taking self-protective measures, whereas of the remaining 29% only 8% escaped without being raped.
Because all people and all situations are different, there is no ONE way for you to protect yourself. People have different capabilities, and you must decide for yourself the best defense method for you.
There are several ways to react to a sexual battery
The goal of passive resistance is to think and talk your way out of the situation. With passive resistance you can:
Try to calm the attacker. Try to persuade him not to carry out the attack.
Try to discourage the attacker. Pretend to faint, cry hysterically, and act mentally incapacitated or insane.
If you are at your residence, tell the attacker a friend is coming over or that your spouse or roommate will be back soon.
Active resistance is intended to distract or temporarily injure your attacker to create an opportunity for escape. Nobody can tell you whether or not active resistance will be the right thing to do. A decision to resist actively, however, is irreversible. Your goal is to escape. Here are some considerations regarding the most common types of active resistance:
Yell don’t scream: Screaming comes from the throat and can be mistaken for playful banter. Screaming is also associated with fear. Yelling comes from the diaphragm, the center of a woman’s power. It is an empowerment action, attracts attention, and cannot be mistaken for a playful scream. Yelling also prepares her body to accept a blow, if necessary, without having the wind knocked out of her. A yell can surprise or frighten an attacker away if he fears people will come to help.
A forceful struggle may also discourage an attacker. If you are not afraid to hurt someone, and can land a strong kick or kit, fighting back may give you the opportunity to escape. All hits and kicks must be forceful and aimed at vulnerable areas, such as the groin, eyes or the instep.
COULD YOU EFFECTIVELY DEFEND YOURSELF IF ATTACKED?
Have you trained enough, are you fit enough to successfully defend your self if attacked? Only you know your capabilities. Take a self defense course. Learn, practice and then decide if it is for you. You can obtain information on locally available self-defense classes in the campus and local telephone directory.
Some people carry weapons to ward off attackers. Unless you are trained and not afraid to use these weapons, they can be very dangerous. The attacker might be able to turn them against you. Also weapons are prohibited on the University of Florida campus.
Chemical sprays have become available as a means of self -defense. Unfortunately, they can provide a false sense of security. Consider the following:
Wind direction is a factor (the wind could blow the spray on you);
Effective range is questionable;
As with any weapons, user may be liable for its use;
The possibility that these sprays may not work on all assailants;
Shelf life of products should be considered;
Must be available in potential victim’s hand at all times;
Effectiveness of individual products is questionable.
Submitting to an Attack
If you believe you might get hurt defending yourself or if you’re afraid to fight back, don’t. Victims who do not resist should never feel guilty; it is the assailant who committed the crime.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN ATTACKED . . .
Many victims of sexual battery don’t know where to turn for help or what to do. You may be afraid or ashamed to talk to anyone, or want to act as though nothing has happened.
If You’ve Been Sexually Battered
Go to a place of safety.
Do not douche, change clothes, shower, or do anything to change your appearance. If you do, you may destroy evidence (seminal fluid, hair, clothing fibers, etc . . .) that the authorities may need to arrest and convict your attacker.
Do not disturb the physical surroundings in which the attack took place. If you do, you may destroy valuable evidence.
Report the crime to law enforcement. This does not mean you must proceed with prosecution.
Contact a Crime Victim Advocate.
Seek counseling. Even if you don’t report the battery to police and press charges, you should contact any local crisis center that can provide you with assistance and and other services.
For further information on this or others safety topics please contact the University of Florida Police Department’s Community Services Division at 392-1409.