Sexual Assault, Sex Offenses, and Sexual Misconduct

Sexual Assault, Sex Offenses, and Sexual Misconduct

Grinnell College prohibits the offenses of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (as defined by the Clery Act) and reaffirms its commitment to maintaining a campus environment that emphasizes the dignity and worth of all members of the college community. Toward that end, Grinnell College issues this statement of policy to inform the campus community of our programs to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as the procedures for institutional disciplinary action in cases of alleged dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, which will be followed regardless of whether the incident occurs on or off-campus when reported to a college official.

Grinnell College’s approach to promoting sexual respect and preventing the spectrum of sexual misconduct utilizes best practices of public health called the socio-ecological model.  This means that our prevention efforts are focused on multiple, overlapping levels of intervention: the individual level, relationship/interpersonal level, community level, and societal level.  For examples of how Grinnell College provides interventions at each level, visit the Sexual Respect website to learn how you can get involved.

Risk Reduction Strategies are options for individual-level actions that can empower potential victims and promote individual safety, and help individuals and communities address conditions that facilitate violence.  Victims/survivors are never at fault for sexual assault – only perpetrators are responsible.

The following are risk reduction strategies:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
  • Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
  • Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
  • Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
  • Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
  • Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.
  • 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.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe in any situation, go with your gut. If you see something suspicious, contact law enforcement immediately (local authorities can be reached by calling 911 in most areas of the U.S.).
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the restroom, or making a phone call. If you’ve left your drink alone, get a new one.
  • Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t 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 they’ve had, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safe place immediately.
  • If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, contact law enforcement immediately (local authorities can be reached by calling 911 in most areas of the U.S). Be explicit with doctors so they can give you the correct tests (you will need a urine test and possibly others).
  • If you need to get out of an uncomfortable or scary situation here are some things that you can try:
    • Remember that being in this situation is not your fault. You did not do anything wrong; it is the person who is making you uncomfortable that is to blame.
    • Be true to yourself. Don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do. “I don’t want to...” is always a good enough reason. Do what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
    • Have a code word with your friends or family so that if you don’t feel comfortable you can call them and communicate your discomfort without the person you are with knowing. Your friends or family can then come to get you or make up an excuse for you to leave.
    • Lie. If you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings, it is better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Some excuses you could use are: needing to take care of a friend or family member, not feeling well, having somewhere else that you need to be, etc.
  • Try to think of an escape route. How would you try to get out of the room? Where are the doors?  Windows? Are there people around who might be able to help you? Is there an emergency phone nearby?
  • If you and/or the other person have been drinking, you can say that you would rather wait until you both have your full judgment before doing anything you may regret later.

Information is taken from Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network — RAINN

Like many other substances, alcohol can inhibit a person's physical and mental abilities. In the context of sexual assault, this means that alcohol may make it easier for a perpetrator to commit a crime and can even prevent someone from remembering that the assault occurred.

Tips to Help You Stay Safe 

You can take steps to increase your safety in situations where drinking may be involved. These tips can help you feel safer and may reduce the risk of something happening. Though it is best to stay safe while under the influence of alcohol, it’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, regardless of whether they were sober or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when it occurred.

  • Keep an eye on your friends. If you are going out in a group, plan to arrive together and leave together. If you decide to leave early, let your friends know. If you’re at a party, check in with them during the night to see how they’re doing. If something doesn’t look right, step in. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about their safety.
  • Have a backup plan. Sometimes plans change quickly. You might realize it’s not safe for you to drive home, or the group you arrived with might decide to go somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Keep the number for a reliable taxi company saved in your phone and on a piece of paper in your wallet and try to have cash on hand. It is also a good idea to download a few different rideshare apps on your phone. Having multiple options helps ensure that you will be able to get a ride home or to a safe location, even if the app you typically use is not functioning. To help, keep your phone charged so you can stay in communication with friends or call a ride. Consider bringing an external cell phone charger that can be used without an electrical outlet.
  • Know what you’re drinking. Don’t recognize an ingredient? Use your phone to look it up. Consider avoiding large-batch drinks like punches that may have a deceptively high alcohol content. There is no way to know exactly what was used to create these drinks.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or worried for any reason, don’t ignore these feelings. Go with your gut. Get somewhere safe and find someone you trust, or call law enforcement.
  • Don’t leave a drink unattended. That includes when you use the bathroom, go dancing, or leave to make a phone call. Either take the drink with you or throw it out. Avoid using the same cup to refill your drink.
  • Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust. This can be challenging in some settings, like a party or a date. If you choose to accept a drink from someone you’ve just met, try to go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
  • Check in with yourself. You might have heard the expression “know your limits.” Whether you drink regularly or not, check in with yourself periodically to register how you feel. If you think you have had too much, ask a trusted friend to help you get water or get home safely. Remember, if someone offers you a drink, you can always say no.
  • Be aware of sudden changes in the way your body feels. Do you feel more intoxicated than you are comfortable with? Some drugs are odorless, colorless and/or tasteless, and can be added to your drink without you noticing. If you feel uncomfortable, tell a friend and have them take you to a safe place. If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and tell the healthcare professionals that you suspect you or a friend have been drugged so they can administer the right tests.

Even if you were consuming alcohol when a sexual assault occurred, remember it was not your fault. You are not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online with RAINN.

Information is taken from Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network – RAINN

Bystanders play a critical role in the prevention of sexual and relationship violence.  Bystanders are “individuals who observe violence or witness the conditions that perpetuate violence.  They are not directly involved, but have the choice to intervene, speak up, or do something about it.”  Grinnell College seeks to promote a culture of community accountability where bystanders are actively engaged in prevention of violence without causing further harm.

Here are some ways in which you can exhibit Active Bystander Behavior:

  • Watch out for your friends, fellow students, and/or employees.  If you see someone who looks like they could be in trouble or need help. Check in and ask if they are ok.
  • Make a plan with your group members before you go out. Questions to consider may include, “How much might you plan on drinking?” or “Are we all going to leave the party together?”
  • Get involved when observing people who seclude, hit on, try to make out with, or have sex with people who are incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs, sleep, or another condition.
  • Speak up when someone discusses plans to take sexual advantage of another person or otherwise contributes to a culture that promotes sexual harassment and misconduct.
  • Believe someone who discloses sexual assault, abusive behavior, or experience with stalking.
  • Refer people to on or off-campus resources for support in health, counseling, or with legal assistance.
  • Indirect or stealth strategies work well.  Get creative – spill a drink, strike up a conversation, ask if one or both parties want to get some food, and/or involve friends in a solution that fits the situation.
  • If you or someone else is in immediate danger, dial 911.  This could be when a person is yelling at or being physically abusive towards another and it is not safe for you to intervene.

Grinnell College is committed to treating all members of the community with dignity, empathy, and respect.  Any individual affected by sexual or gender-based harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking whether as a complainant, a respondent, witness, or third party, will have equal access to support through the College.  The College recognizes that deciding whether or not to make a report and choosing how to proceed can be difficult decisions.  We encourage any individual who has questions or concerns to seek the support of campus and community resources.

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