How can Sexual Assault and Rape be Prevented?

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been sexually assaulted or has questions around the topic:

What is Sexual Assault? Definitions & Meanings of Rape
Who Commits Sexual Assault & Why?
What are the Signs of Sexual Assault?
Date Rape & Staying Safe
What Impacts Does Sexual Assault Have on Victims and Their Family/Friends?
Coping, Healing & Recovering From Sexual Assault & Rape
How to Help Someone Who has Been a Victim of Sexual Assault
How to report Sexual Assault (and Who to Report it to)
How is Sexual Assault & Rape Proven in Court?
Punishment and Sentencing for Sexual Assault
How can Sexual Assault and Rape be Prevented?
Sexual Assault Data & Statistics
Sexual Assault Helplines, Support & Further Reading


In order to prevent sexual assault and rape, we need to understand why it happens and what factors contribute to the cause of it. This is often referred to as ‘primary prevention’, which means stopping something before it occurs.

In this guide, we will discuss how the different contributing factors such as; individual, relationship, community and society can be targeted to help prevent sexual assault and rape.

What to do if I witness someone being sexually assaulted?

It will be very difficult to think clearly when you are in a situation like this and it is very important that you do not try to intervene and put yourself in any danger. Call 999 immediately and ask for help.

Should I confront the rapist or intervene?

Do not put yourself in a position where you are at risk of harm by the rapist. Whilst you are wanting to help the victim, ensure you have some safety measures in place for yourself. Remember in case of an emergency, call 999 and ask for the police.

What can be done to reduce sexual assaults in the UK?

It is very important to have awareness in education around the risk and protective factors that can influence individual behaviour. An individual’s behaviour will be influenced by the following;

  • The individual
  • Relationships
  • Community
  • Society

Risk factors are characteristics, variables or hazards which make it more likely for some individuals to have a tendency towards certain behaviours. Protective factors decrease the probability of that person engaging in such behaviour.  For example, a child growing up in an environment in which he/she has been subjected to violence and abuse is more likely to resort to such behaviour than a child who has been raised in a loving caring environment.

Understanding and considering risk factors and protective factors is key to the reduction and prevention of sexual assault. People need to know how they can play their part in influencing the attitudes and mindsets of people at risk of resorting to such behaviour in a positive way.

Local communities need to work in partnership with the police focusing on reducing sexual assault crime and making it possible for people to report incidents without fear of retaliation.

What can be done to reduce sexual assaults worldwide?

In order to create a society in which people feel safe requires the understanding of safety as a human right and public good that needs to be protected. In order to reduce sexual assaults worldwide it is important to address the root cause of the problem. Governments should invest in prevention strategies, aiming to prevent sexually abusive behaviour before it develops by identifying the factors that can lead to it and then trying to address them. Examples of how this can be achieved include;

  • Public information and awareness-raising campaigns
  • Educational programmes
  • Early-childhood interventions
  • Legislative and policy frameworks

There needs to be more resources and support made available and accessible to individuals who have been sexually abused. This will help them reach out and get help to recover from their experiences, helping them to heal and not become abusers themselves.

How can you avoid or reduce your likelihood of being sexually assaulted?

Here are a few steps that you can take to try and stay safe;

  • Look out for one another when you go out, ask friends to keep an eye out for you and you can do the same for them.
  • Don’t accept drinks from other people unless you are present at the bar and can see the drink being poured yourself.
  • Don’t let anyone pressure you into drinking more than you want to
  • If you feel your drink may have been spiked, try to get help straight away
  • Self-defence classes can improve your ability to avoid physical conflict and defend yourself
  • Keep your phone with you at all times and make sure it is always charged before leaving home
  • Always tell a family member or a close friend if you are planning to go out
  • Be aware of your surroundings, avoid poorly lit areas
  • If you are being followed, go to a well-lit area where there are other people, ask for help
  • Avoid headphones when you are out alone
  • Try using ATMs during daylight and be aware if there is anyone behind you.

This list is in no way exhaustive and there are never enough steps we can all take to stay safe. It’s always a good idea to let family members or people that are close to you know where you are going too.

We understand how difficult it is to experience abuse, whether it is yourself or someone you know, sometimes trying to find help is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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