Women as allies is a powerful tool to help prevent sexual assault

A few years ago, I found myself in a mostly deserted pub in Northern Houston, killing time with a few friends before an event. A young couple walked in and sat at the bar and, after a while, the young woman got up and went to the restroom.

And that’s when I saw it happen; the man that she was at the bar with called the bartender over while she was gone and he had the bartender pour another shot of alcohol into the woman’s drink.

I causally got up and walked to the restroom, where I found the young woman. After telling her what I saw, I finished by saying, “I think you need to come with us.”  And she responded with something like “Oh no, he’s just a friend, I’m fine.” “Did you ask him to put another shot in your drink?” I asked. “No, but I’m sure it’s fine,” she responded.

My friend Amanda had been listening to the conversation, and finally lost patience. “I don’t think you understand what my friend is trying to tell you. You are in a potential date rape situation. He’s trying to get you drunk without you knowing it. My friend here is trying to protect you,” she said to the woman. Still the woman persisted that all was fine.  Finally, we gave up and let her go. She and the male she came in with left the bar shortly after that.

Was letting the woman go the right thing to do? To this day, I’m not sure. I personally do a lot of contact sports and have been often pulled aside from someone being concerned for my welfare, so I hope that this situation was something similar, but I’m not fully convinced either. And, a former bartender friend pointed out later, I could have also turned the bartender for an ethics violation, a good lesson in what else to do in the future.

As I listen to #MeToo stories today from the restaurant industry as well as the stories of women warning other women about “creepy men,” I was reminded of the story above. And I realized there is a power we women have in this battle against sexual assault, we can share information, look out for one another, support one another, and pursue action against men who harm us, if not for ourselves, to protect other women.

I’m not insinuating that women in general are to blame nor is changing our actions going to solve the issue, I think in-group pressure (men fighting against and stopping the behavior of the abusive men) is the long-term solution, but until then, the more we can view each other as allies vs. competition, stand-up for one another, and share information with one another, the better our chances of staying safe.

Safe drinking tips:

  • Never, ever accept a drink you didn’t personally see opened or made.
  • Go to the restroom between drinks or take your drink to the restroom with you. Never leave it alone.
  • Always keep an eye on your drink, and even a hand if you can. If you get distracted, don’t drink the drink.
  • If you think it’ll “look odd” not to be drinking, ask the bartender quietly for a “mocktail” or simply ask for a club soda with lime.
  • If someone is pressuring you to drink something you don’t want to, and you feel a “no” is a poor option, get clumsy and accidentally knock it over. Then don’t be around that person anymore.
  • Only drink a little bit while out, drink slowly and rotate between water and alcohol.
  • Eat before and during drinking alcohol.
  • More great tips from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

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