Recognizing Warning Signs of Sexual Assault

Although none of us want to believe that someone we know would harm another person, sexual assault is currently a problem at college campuses across the country. You can help prevent sexual assault by recognizing patterns of behavior that are common among those who commit assault and intervening or getting help when they occur. The following common behaviors are adapted from Green Dot and based on the research of Steve Thompson and David Lisak.

Someone who is planning to commit sexual assault often... 

  • Identifies someone who will be easily controlled -- someone who is younger, new to campus, or has consumed a lot of alcohol or drugs
  • Acts very attentive and flattering towards a potential victim to get the person's guard down
  • Attempts to get the person more intoxicated and less able to resist, gives them more alcohol or drugs 
  • Gradually increases physical contact or sexual comments/jokes to "test" a potential victim's boundaries (victim may feel uncomfortable but worry about causing a scene or hurting the other person's feelings)
  • Separates potential victim from other people by getting them to leave social gathering, take a walk, etc.
  • After an assault, tries to confuse victim by acting as if nothing is wrong, shifting responsibility for what happened to victim, following up with texts or messages to make it seem like this was a consensual encounter
  • After an assault, brags to friends about incident and assumes that others believe this behavior is acceptable

When observing behaviors like these, many people are afraid to act because they are unsure about what's happening. Some of these behaviors -- for example, acting attentive, drinking, physical contact and leaving a party together -- are common in consensual relationships too. When in doubt, check in. Excuse yourself from the situation, ask the people involved how they're doing, or get help from a friend. Remember that being targeted by someone in this way is never the victim's fault.