Ask a Doc: How to Protect Against Sexual Assault

October 15, 2015

Recently I was shocked to hear that one in four women on college campuses have been a victim of unwanted sexual contact. As the mother of a young woman in college, I am extremely concerned about her safety. Do you have any advice on safety precautions women can take to prevent themselves from becoming a victim?

The problem of sexual violence against women on college campuses has gotten a lot of media coverage in the wake of a survey conducted by the Association of American Universities. It was found that among those 150,000 students responding to the survey, 23% of women had experienced a sexual assault. Rates varied among colleges from 13 to over 30%. Experts disagree about the exact number of sexually assaults on campus due to survey bias and general under reporting but I think we can all agree that even one sexual assault is one too many.

While there are ways that women may be able to reduce their risk of sexual assault we have to remember that NO WOMAN or MAN ever deserves to be assaulted. Additionally, sexual assault is not just an individual problem, it is a community problem. We can all takes steps to reduce sexual violence.

The Rape, Abuse and Incent National Network (RAINN), has some important tips to increase safety on college campuses on their website, Please share this column with your daughter or encourage her to look online herself.

First, it is very important to always be alert to your surroundings. In the wake of the recent on campus shooting in Oregon, one of the students reported that she credits her parents’ advice to ‘stay alert’ in saving her life. When walking or running alone, do not use headphones. Be aware of the people around you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a campus security escort if traveling at night or in an unfamiliar area. Additionally, make sure you lock your doors and windows when you are asleep or away from home. Second, be careful using social media. It is not a good idea to post exactly where you are at every moment.

Third, make sure that your friends earn your trust. College students often make friends quickly. The intense and intimate environment can result in a false sense of security.

Socializing is an important part of the college experience. It is possible to have fun and be safe. Here are a few basic tips on how to be safe while enjoying time out with friends.

First, make a plan to go to a party with people that you trust. Plan to leave the party together. If plans change, make sure everyone has a safe way home. Second, know your limits in terms of alcohol consumption and avoid illicit drug use.

Alcohol is involved in over 50% of all sexual assaults and remains the #1 date rape drug. Do not leave your drink unattended and be aware of how many drinks you have had. Watch your friends for signs of drunken behavior. If you or a friend become drunk or feel drugged, leave the party and seek help if needed.

Lastly, be a good friend. If you see a friend in a situation that doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Go to your friend and create a distraction. If you are unable to get your friend out of the situation alert a resident assistant or security guard.

If you or someone you know was been a victim of sexual assault and want more information, please contact The Victim Resource Center of the Finger Lakes at (315) 331-1171.


gellasch_taraTara Gellasch, MD, is the Associate Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital (NWCH) and sees patients at The Women’s Center at NWCH, a Rochester General Medical Group practice. Dr. Gellasch earned her Medical Doctorate from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Emory University. This column is meant to be educational and not intended to be used to make individual treatment decisions. Prior to starting or stopping any treatment, please confer with your own health care provider. To send questions on women’s health, please email Dr. Tara Gellasch’ s assistant, Monica Decory with questions for Dr. Gellasch at and write “Ask a Doc” in the subject line. The Women’s Center at NWCH is located at 1250 Driving Park Avenue, Newark. Call (315) 332-2427 to schedule an appointment.

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Rochester Regional Health is an integrated health services organization serving the people of Western New York, the Finger Lakes and beyond. The system includes 150 locations: five hospitals; more than 100 primary and specialty practices, rehabilitation centers and ambulatory campuses; innovative senior services, facilities and independent housing; a wide range of behavioral health services; and ACM Medical Laboratory, a global leader in patient and clinical trials. Rochester Regional Health, the region’s second-largest employer, was named one of “America’s Best Employers” by Forbes in 2015. Learn more at