Spring Break Hunting Grounds

When you google “spring break sexual assault,” links to national news stories come up of a girl who was gang raped in 2015 on the Panama City Beach while bystanders recorded. More links come up with the aftermath of this event: the men who were charged with sexual battery and the trials summed up into articles. Behind those links is so much more than just a story. There is humiliation and pain for a young woman whose trauma is available at the tips of anyone’s fingers.

Public assaults such as this can provide the public with better awareness, but the reality for many survivors is silent suffering.  Whether it’s public, such as the 2015 Panama City assault, or the quiet assault that happened at a party after a day of binge-drinking on the beach, trauma is still there. Suffering is still there. Humiliation and self-blame is still there. We know the publicity of the attack doesn’t distinguish how traumatic the event was.

Spring break provides a hunting ground for hundreds, if not thousands of sexual assaults a year. So what can you do about it? How can you have fun, but still protect yourself?

Be aware of what you are drinking 
Date rape is especially common during spring break and can be slipped to you in the most discrete ways. If it works for you, keep your drinks in a re-closable water bottle.

Drink responsibly
I’m not saying you can’t have fun, just watch what you’re drinking and when. Hydrate between drinks, make sure you eat food, and keep an eye on the alcohol content of what you’re drinking. Have fun, but keep yourself aware of your surroundings.

Be a good friend.
Your friends are your allies. Use “the buddy system” if you have to. You might not be able to control everything your friends do, but you know them more than anyone.

Use your phone as your ally
If you need to call for assistance or for a friend at any time, your phone can literally save your life. We have technology and a line of safety at the tips of our fingers. Be sure to keep it charged, and be sure your friends do the same. You can also call our line at any time, day or night, to get connected to a local program. We can walk you through what a SANE exam looks like and get you connected to an advocate to discuss your options face-to-face.

Hooking up – Keep your friends in the loop and use protection
Tell your friends if you decide to sneak off with someone you’ve had your eye on. Your friends will hold you accountable. They know you and will hopefully discourage you from going if they can tell you are too intoxicated. If you do choose to consent to anything, keep in mind that even a random hook-up can change your life if you pick up an STI.

If you are assaulted, you can go to the hospital for a SANE exam at no cost to you
Your insurance will not be billed unless you have additional injuries related to the assault that need medical attention. So if you don’t want your parents to know, you don’t have to tell them.

I’m not saying you can’t blow off some steam. You’re officially an adult and what you decide to do on spring break should be completely up to you and at your consent.

Your college experience will be filled with so many wonderful memories. Sexual assault should not be part of that experience.