There are many strategies you can use to protect yourself when drinking. Here is an opportunity for you to choose the best strategies for you.
- Choose not to drink. This is a no-brainer. Not drinking is always an option for you, at any time. (And it is the only legal option for those under the age of 21.)
- Eat before and during drinking. Having food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol, meaning that blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases more slowly.
- Drink only with trusted friends and use the buddy system. Friends who know you and are looking out for you can protect you from being in an unsafe situation. NOTE: If a friend appears abnormally drowsy or excessively drunk given the amount of alcohol consumed, it may indicate the use of a predatory “date rape drug." Get to a safe place and seek medical attention.
- Before you start to drink, ask a close friend to intervene if he/she thinks you've had enough. It can be as easy as saying to your friend, "I don't want to hook up with anyone tonight," or "Don't let me make a fool out of myself."
- Do not accept a drink from someone you don't know. If someone offers to get you a drink, go with them to the bar to order it, watch it being poured and carry it yourself.
- Stay away from drinks that come from punch bowls or other large, open containers.
- Never leave your drink unattended, even if it is "just for a second" as you talk to a friend, make a phone call, use the restroom, etc.
- Set a limit for yourself and stick to that limit. The majority of college students have 4 or fewer drinks when they socialize.¹
- Pace drinks over time (ideally one drink an hour) and keep track of how much you're drinking.
- Avoid drinking games. When playing drinking games, a lot of alcohol can be consumed in a short amount of time. It is also likely that you can lose track of how much alcohol you've consumed. You can always play with another beverage, or make your own rules.
- Alternate between alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages. Alternating between an alcoholic beverage and water can help you to both maintain a low BAC and prevent dehydration.
- Always have an exit plan. Know how to get home safely if a problem were to arise. Some suggestions: keep the number of a cab company in your cell phone, have cab fare in cash, and set up a signal to let a friend know if you need a rescue.
When Sex is a Possibility
- Pay attention to how much your partner is drinking
- Remember that consent to sexual activity before drinking is helpful but never final
- Keep in mind that impairment of judgment can begin with the first drink
- Remember that the probability of miscommunication is high when people have been drinking
- Warning bells should be going off in your head if you see an opportunity in hooking up with an intoxicated person
If you're in doubt - wait!
Who is Responsible?
- When alcohol is involved in a sexual assault, it is always the fault of the offender--regardless of whether or not the victim had been drinking as well. Society often blames victims of sexual assault who have been drinking because it is assumed that their choice to drink led to the assault. In reality, it is an offender who chooses to take advantage of another person's level of intoxication.
- If someone chooses to drink alcohol, that choice never equates to "asking" to get hurt.
- It is always a best practice to avoid engaging in sexual activity while drinking or drunk.
- If consent is unclear, stop immediately and clarify with your partner.
- Remember, those who are incapacitated by the use of drugs or alcohol are unable to consent to sexual activity. Engaging in any sort of sexual activity with a person who is incapacitated is AGAINST THE LAW.
¹American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (2009). Reference group executive summary Fall 2008.