As Summer Party Season Approaches, Sheriff’s Office Warns Young Adults to Protect Themselves Against Sexual Assault

Sexual assaults committed against young adults increase dramatically now through July in northern Nevada. Why? A vast majority of alcohol and drug related sexual assaults occur during graduation time and warm summer months when parties are prevalent.

Young women 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault especially when alcohol or drugs are involved.

A large segment of our society focuses on rape where the perpetrator is a stranger. The reality is that almost all rape cases in Northern Nevada are committed by someone the victim knows.

The Sheriff’s Office wants parents and young adults to be aware of potentially dangerous situations to reduce the risk of sexual assault.

Young adults respond to an assault in different ways.

“Just because they didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape – in fact, many victims felt that physical resistance could cause the perpetrator to become more violent,” said Detective Captain David Nikoley. “Lack of consent can be expressed by simply saying ‘no’.”

“Many people believe common myths about sexual assault such as ‘If the woman was flirting then it’s not really sexual assault’ or ‘It’s not rape unless the young woman is seriously injured” said Undersheriff Todd Vinger. “However, if they do not consent – it’s a crime, regardless of the circumstances.” “It’s not the victim’s fault,” agrees Nikoley, “even when they don’t make the safest choices.”

The Sheriff’s Office discourages underage drinking, supports Safe and Sober graduation celebrations and recommends the following:

* Don’t let alcohol or other drugs cloud your judgment. Alcohol decreases awareness, so people are less likely to guard themselves against aggressive or coercive behavior.
* Acknowledge and understand that consent to sexual activity can be withdrawn at any time. Without putting yourself in danger, leave if you feel uncomfortable. Most importantly, if you do not consent, verbalize it. “Say No! Get up and go.”
* Avoid going into secluded areas. Be conscious of exits or other escape routes. Think about options for transportation (cab, car, bus, etc.)
* Have a code word with 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.
* If you see a friend heading into a dangerous situation at a party, encourage them to leave or stay by their side.
* Always keep an eye on every beverage you drink. Once you lose sight of your drink, don’t consume it anymore – get a new one.
* Trust your instincts. If a situation or place makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy, leave.
* Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you find a way to get out of a bad situation.
* Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have money.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages victims and witnesses to report violent crimes immediately. Call 911 in case of an emergency; non-emergency number is 832-WCSO (9276) or Secret Witness at 322-4900. If the victim is uncomfortable about contacting the police, contact the Crisis Call Center at 784-8090.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office celebrates 150 years of proud service and community partnership in 2011. Sheriff Michael Haley is the 24th person elected to serve as the Sheriff of Washoe County. His office continues to be the only full service public safety agency operating within northern Nevada and is responsible for operating the consolidated detention facility, regional crime lab, Northern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, court security, service of civil process and traditional street patrols.