Make Safe Decisions.
Here are ten steps you can take to help reduce the risk of you or a friend being harmed in social situations:
- Trust your gut and be true to yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, trust your instincts and leave. If someone is pressuring you, it’s better to make up an excuse to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Your safety comes before someone else's feelings or what they may think of you. If you see something suspicious, contact law enforcement immediately (local authorities can be reached by calling 911).
- When you go to a social gathering, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other throughout the evening, and leave together. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way out of a bad situation.
- Make plans and be prepared. When going out, know ahead of time who is going and plan to stay together as a group. Construct a backup plan for the day/night so that all of your friends know where to meet up if someone gets separated and/or their phone dies. Always have a designated sober friend in the group, even if they won’t be driving. Be sure to check that you have everything you need before you leave — a fully charged phone, the number for a reliable cab company, enough cash to get you home, etc. Keep your phone on you at all times in case you find yourself if an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
- Do not leave your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the restroom, or making a phone call. If you’ve left your drink alone, just get a new one.
- Do not accept drinks from people you do not know or trust. If you choose to accept a drink, go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself. At parties, don’t drink from the punch bowls or other large, common open containers.
- Watch out for your friends, and vice versa. If a friend seems out of it, is way too intoxicated for the amount of alcohol consumed, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safe place immediately. If a friend is behaving in ways that may violate the sexual misconduct policy, intervene or ask others to help you intervene.
- If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, contact law enforcement immediately (local authorities can be reached by calling 911). Be explicit with doctors so they can give you the correct tests.
- Do not accept a ride with or enter the residence of someone you do not know.
- Avoid losing control of your ability to make good decisions. If you are getting to the point that you do not have control of yourself or your surroundings, stop and think about the type of situation in which you find yourself. It is far too easy for others to take advantage of you or a situation if you cannot think or act rationally.
- Be a good friend. If a friend is acting in a way that seems out of character, take notice. If he or she is overly intoxicated or seems to need assistance, get them to a safe place and support them. If you suspect that a friend has been drugged or needs medical attention because of over-intoxication or for any other reason, call 911.
Support a Friend.
- If a friend tells you he or she is being stalked, abused or was physically or sexually assaulted, believe them and support them. Listen to his or her story. Do not victim blame. These offenses have nothing to do with the victim's behavior, actions or the reality of the situation. It is not helpful to judge or investigate. Rather, the best thing you can do is support your friend.
- Sexual misconduct can lead to depression, anxiety, headaches, stomach problems, sleeping problems and other issues. Encourage your friend to get help dealing with the situation. Refer them to the UNL Victim Advocate, Women’s Center, CAPs or the Title IX Coordinator. If the person has experienced physical harm, encourage them to seek medical help.
- Ask the person how he or she would like your help. Perhaps they would like you to accompany them to the police or the hospital.
- Allow them to make personal decisions about how to proceed and support their choices even if you disagree.
- Do not respond to the alleged offender if that person reaches out to you for information. Contact with the alleged offender may put you or your friend in further danger or may impede an investigation.
- Encourage your friend to keep evidence and document everything. Encourage your friend to: (1) create and keep a log of the time, date, place and other details so they do not forget what happened; (2) keep all e-mails, texts, phone messages, letters, notes or social media messages; and (3) encourage them to photograph any damages to their personal possessions and any injuries they may have incurred.
- Respect your friend’s privacy. Do not give any information out about your friend’s situation to other friends without your friend’s consent.
Be an Active Bystander
Someone who observes a situation, but is not directly involved is called a bystander. Active Bystanders are aware of the barriers that stop observers from taking action and have learned several approaches they can use to assist someone who needs help. Common barriers to helping out in a situation are: 1) thinking it is someone else’s responsibility, 2) fear of embarrassment if you have misread the situation, 3) fear of what may happen to you, and 4) not knowing how to intervene.
UNL PREVENT peer educators teach intervention skills to students, staff and faculty who want to know how to help when they observe a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. Below are some approaches taught by PREVENT to safely intervene if you see someone in a potentially unsafe situation:
- Create a distraction. Go up to speak to the person or call the person’s cell phone to create a situation where attention is needed elsewhere. Or try to converse with the person who may be creating danger in order to allow time for the person in danger to move away.
- Engage in group intervention. Ask friends to help out with distraction or separation.
- Get an authority. Ask the bar tender, bouncer, campus authority or law enforcement authority for assistance.
- Ask the person who appears to be in danger if he or she is okay. If you think the person is in trouble, offer assistance.
For information about attending a PREVENT training, having a PREVENT training conducted, or about becoming a PREVENT peer educator contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Women’s Center at 402-472-2597.