In the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, four friends decide to share a pair of jeans for the summer and to use the pant legs to document their adventures for the future. They set ten rules for themselves, and #10 was, “Remember: Pants=love. Love your pals. Love yourself.” Today, April 23, pants=love again. It’s Denim Day, and it’s a day to talk about sexual awareness because we love our pals, and we love ourselves.
Let’s start with the facts: One in four girls may be the victim of a rape or attempted rape before they reach 25. Three out of five rapes occur to victims younger than 18. Date rape is the most common assault: 78% of sexual assaults are defined as date rape (“someone the victim knows forces them to have sex against their will”).
Sexual assault is tragically far too common. It is NEVER the victim’s fault. Our hearts ache for the many women who’ve experienced the pain, grief, and unexpected shame of rape. Because we care about women, let’s talk about some ways to stay safe, especially for teens:
- Follow your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about a person or situation, get away as quickly as possible.
- Know what you want from a relationship and avoid those who pressure you for more.
- Carry a cell phone when you go out and have someone call if you need help.
- Avoid getting rides with people you don’t know well. Be sure your car has fuel and is in good working condition.
- If you are attacked or threatened, focus on making a lot of noise and trying to get away.
- Learn self defense. (Check local community colleges and gyms for a schedule of classes!)
- Act confident and be aware of your surroundings. Alertness makes you a less appealing target to most rapists.
- Know that teens who start dating young and who date people much older than themselves are at increased risk for unwanted sexual advances.
- Group dates and activities in well-lit public places are safer than being alone with someone.
- Don’t drink or use drugs.
- Even for nonalcoholic drinks, don’t drink out of a communal bowl – always open your own drink at parties and never let it out of your site.
- Immediately report any threats to the police.
Whether or not you’re wearing denim today, being aware of the risk so that you can help yourself and others stay safe is the best thing you can do to observe Denim Day. If you know that a friend has experienced a sexual assault, you can help her or him by remembering that it’s not the victim’s fault. Express your sadness about what happened to her, and be sure that she’s received medical help. In addition to being examined by a doctor, she will probably benefit from counseling to address the trauma she’s experienced. Maybe you could be a safe companion to help her get the counseling she needs.
No one is entitled to use someone else for their own agenda, and that includes sexual assault. Talk with girls and guys you know about how to avoid the risk. And if you have dealt with this trauma and need someone to talk to, we’re here for you, too. We want to hear your story.
Other ideas? Comments? Facts? Tell us in the comments.