What would you do if someone you wanted to hook up with wouldn’t stop bugging you for sexual texts or photos? What if you saw someone at a party at your house rubbing up against people without their consent? What if a professor or supervisor put their hand on your knee during an important meeting? What could you do?
In the Personal Safety workshops provided by the Dean of Students office, Michigan students work together to identify options for each of the situations above. Some want to respond directly, right away, by setting a clear boundary. Others prefer to try a more indirect approach first, closely monitoring how the other person responds before deciding if more action will be necessary.
Here are some of their strategies:
When you want to say no to someone you like about sexual texts or photos:
- “Tell them to cut it out. This happened to me years ago, and I didn’t know what to do at the time. If it happened again I would just tell them I don’t like it and I want them to stop asking. I’d rather know right up front if they’re going to respect my decision.”
- “You could lie, say your parents check your phone and you’re too scared to send anything.”
- “If they won’t stop, I would call a sexual assault center or even the U-M police. Pressure like this can become a kind of stalking, which is illegal.”
If you witness someone touching people at a party without their consent:
- “I’d probably start asking around – Who knows him? Who did he come with? Would any of his friends intervene and let him know that he’s bothering people?”
- “I really like the technique of Say What Just Happened for this situation. I bet if you just loudly describe what they’re doing in front of a roomful of people it might embarrass them enough to stop. Or better yet, get them to leave!”
- “I’d get a bunch of my friends together so we could confront them about it together. With just one person, they could ignore you. But a group would feel safer to me.”
If your professor, advisor, or supervisor touches your knee during a meeting:
- “I think I’d just cross my legs or move out of the way subtly. Then, if they don’t get the message, I might say something directly like ‘I don’t want to be touched.’”
- “This is sexual harassment, uncool. Report it.”
- “It depends, it might not feel safe to get them in trouble. What if I need a grade, or a recommendation from this person? I’d want to talk first about what might happen to me.”
Whether your personal style is direct or indirect, Personal Safety Education offers practice in lots of options: including passive, assertive, and aggressive verbal strategies based on your safety, your needs, and your context.
Visit the Sexual Assuault Prevention and Awareness Center's website for more information about stalking, harassment, and consent. The SAPAC 24-Hour Crisis Line is (734) 936-3333.