Campus safety is a concern for every student and parent. One of the most dangerous threats young college students face is sexual assault.

With a current statistic like one in five college students experiencing sexual assault during their college years, it certainly drives ones curiosity as to why, and what can be done to stop or mitigate these crimes?

First, you must know that the majority of these crimes go unreported and thus the inclination is that these numbers as high as they are may even be skewed.

The perpetrators in 90% of rape cases are an acquaintance of the victim, and on average the perpetrator has been responsible for committing multiple rape offenses.

Did you know that only about 5% of these rape cases at colleges and universities ever get reported? And it is not only women; in 10% of the cases it is men that have been sexually assaulted!

The question begs most, how do we curtail this criminal offense? How do we as a society stop these acts from being committed in the first place? The answer is we must first be aware of certain behaviors that can perpetuate the propensity for sexual assault and rape.

We must Recognize pre-incident behaviors that can and often do lead up to unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault and rape. College is an environment of learning and exploration and that includes intimacy, however for the inexperienced, the desire for intimacy can often cloud one’s better judgment and lead to victimization.

If you can recognize some of these pre-incident behaviors that may be present in your partner, friend or others that you come into contact with, you can surely mitigate the risk of becoming a victim.

Unless you have experienced wanton physical abuse, which would be a real “tell” that something is definitely amiss, then you will likely lack the essential skills to decipher some of the habits and behaviors that develop and either progress or that will be exhibited at some time in the future.

The idea here is that we want to arm you with some knowledge that can help you understand and recognize warning signs of serious relationship issues before they escalate.

One very important early warning sign of future problems is emotional abuse. Take a look at the following key elements of pre-incident behavior to see if any or all of them fit your situation.

Tone: how do they speak or talk to you? Is it soft and encouraging or aggressive and insulting or angry?

Jealousy: do they seem overly jealous where there is no justification? Do they attempt to monitor your other relationships and people you come in contact with?

Control: Do they “ask”? Or “tell” you what to do and say? Do they try to isolate you and or prevent your interactions or contact with family friends and others? Are they manipulative?

Language: Do they use coarse language and cursing during your normal interactions? Do they call you call you names such as “moron” or “stupid” “jerkoff” that are inappropriate or utterly insulting?

Technology: It is just another area that can be monitored and controlled and thus you must be aware of your own social media and that of others. Understand that people are even more likely to post things online that are on their mind including images and photos. Look at the context of their words, images and photos and determine if it can be construed directly or indirectly as insulting, vulgar, threatening, jealous, rage or involve other negative emotions and behaviors.

 Threats: threats come in many forms. They may “threaten” you with verbal, emotional or physical abuse. Threats may also be issued in the form of a statement or consequence for example: “If you don’t get my dinner on the table in the next 5 minutes I am going to hurt you” or “If you don’t do my laundry today you are going to suffer tonight when I get home”.

Lastly in regards to threats, people can and do employ threatening body language to intimate their feelings and emotions. For example if your significant other aggressively gets in your personal space and stares at you with a look on their face that you could only describe as rage, anger, dangerous or threatening, then this is certainly a behavior that you must evaluate.

Physical abuses are another set of behaviors that act as pre-incident warnings that something is wrong. Some of these are considered “incidents” though they may not be directly related to the sexual component.

Violence: Violence is something that most are not prepared for. When someone perpetrates an act of violence on you such as wrenching your arm or grabbing you forcefully by the neck or strikes you in any manner they are exhibiting dangerous behavior that left unchecked could result in serious bodily harm or worse for you.

Property Damage: Another form of violence may be perpetrated against material things, personal property or actual property. For example, your significant other cuts up all your clothing, puts it in a box and sends it to you or leaves it for you in plain sight to see. Perhaps they get so enraged that they put their fist through the wall in your place.

Sexual Violence: If your partner is violent, abusive or forceful during sexual relations, this could be a sign of deviant behavior and an indication that there is the potential for things to escalate.

As a college student it would behoove you to learn these pre-incident warning signs and use them to mitigate circumstances and situations in advance. A little awareness can certainly go a long way in preserving your safety and enhancing your college experience.

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