Hesperian Health Guides

How to prevent sexual violence

In this chapter:

As individuals and as a community, people can take steps to protect themselves and each other against rape and sexual assault. But if someone is sexually attacked, that person should never be blamed for failing to prevent it.

a young woman thinking while a young man holds her arm
I don't want to look stupid by running away from him... It's probably nothing anyway.
Trust your feelings. It is better to explain a misunderstanding later than to be raped.

Ways to protect yourself

  • Trust your feelings. If you feel like something is not right, it probably is not. If you feel afraid or like you want to leave a situation, go.
  • Make sure all locks on windows and doors in your home are working and use them. If you return home to find a door or window forced open, do not go in alone.
  • When away from home, stay in groups when you can. People are safer and stronger when they look out for each other.
  • Walk confidently when you are alone. Try to stay in lighted areas. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you rather than listening to headphones or looking at your phone. Keep your phone close in case you need to call for help.
  • If you think you are being followed, try walking in another direction or going up to another person, house, or store.
  • If you go out with someone, plan how to get home if you decide you need to leave. It is better not to go if you will not be able to get back without help.
  • When someone makes you uncomfortable, tell them clearly and firmly to stop. Get away from that person as soon as you can.
More Information
self defense
  • If you are attacked, physically defend yourself. Push your attacker away, yell at him, and do whatever you can to get out of the situation.
  • If your attacker is someone you live with, make a safety plan to escape.
  • If your attacker has power over you (for example, your boss or teacher), let him know that you are not frightened and tell him to stop. Warn other women about him. If you must continue to deal with him, try not to be alone with him.
  • Do not be silent. Tell someone you trust if you are experiencing sexual violence.

Ways to help someone in danger

When stopping sexual violence from harming someone else, try not to put yourself at risk. These ideas can help you help someone in danger:

  • Talk to the person away from their harasser. Ask what help or support they need. Offer to keep them company or walk them to a safe place.
  • Create a distraction. Help them get out of the dangerous situation by starting a conversation and not leaving them alone. Suggest going somewhere else, bringing more people into your group, or continuing to talk to keep them company.
  • Ask others for help. Ask the person’s friend, a bartender, a security guard, or someone else to make sure the person is not in danger.
  • After the threat has ended, a person may still feel scared or not know what to do. Listen to them, walk them to their destination, and try to help them get the support they need.

Every person should learn how to protect themselves from sexual violence, but we need to work together to create lasting change.

Ways to prevent child sexual abuse

Children who are abused or who witness others being abused are often asked to keep secrets. Build trust and make sure children know who they can speak with when something is wrong.

  • Teach children how to tell the difference between affectionate touching and sexual touching.
  • Teach children no one should touch them in ways they do not want to be touched, just as they should not touch others in ways they do not want to be touched.
  • Teach children the names of their body parts so they can communicate with you about their bodies.
  • Believe a child who says they feel uncomfortable around an adult or older child, no matter who that person is.
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Where could you go for help if I am at work? How about your Aunt Rose? Or Lisa’s mother? Who else?
To Nana.

This page was updated:13 Nov 2023