Strategies to Protect Yourself from Sexual Assault

The community will meet with city law enforcement officials today at 7 p.m. at St. James Church at Guerrero and 23rd streets to discuss the investigation into last Thursday’s rape on 24th Street.

In the meantime, we asked some experts what people can do to protect themselves.

Chelsea Dodgen, a clinical social worker at UCSF’s Trauma Recovery Center, says that a targeted woman may help or hurt her situation by talking on the phone, depending on the situation. On one hand, the person could report the crime to whoever is on the line, but the phone is itself a distraction that could allow a predator to sneak up on their victim. The best strategy might be to stay off the phone, but pretend to call someone if you feel threatened.

Headphones are a bad idea.

First and foremost, “Be mindful of your drink,” says Dodgen. Think twice before leaving your beer unattended — perhaps a reason to invite a friend to tag along. Company is the best defense, regardless of the setting or even the hour. According to, a service by the Omega Group in cooperation with SFPD, a sexual assault occurred midday on Friday, Dec. 9, near Alabama and 22nd Street, only a day after the assault on Fair Oaks and 24th. SFPD says the two incidents are unrelated, but cannot comment on the details.

San Francisco General Hospital offers two levels of service to rape survivors. The Rape Treatment Center provides free rape kits and prophylactics, as well as medications, a staff of nurse practitioners to ensure that no one waits longer than 20 minutes, and many other services. “It’s whatever the person needs,” says Dodgen. The Trauma Recovery Center a few blocks away offers ongoing services such as short-term psychiatric therapy.

SFPD reports that in November, violent crime, the category that includes rape, was down approximately 14 percent citywide from October. In the same period, rape cases have risen by 50 percent — though this equates to only three more cases than in October. This spike may be an anomaly, since October saw a 33 percent drop from September. According to Dodgen, clinicians are clueless as to why rape reports sometimes occur in “waves.”

In the Mission District specifically, November has seen four more rapes than last month, when the SFPD received report of only one. For the year to date, 20 cases of rape have been reported — the same number as in 2010.

Filed under: Today's Mission, Trouble

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  1. Eric

    What about advising women to CARRY A GUN. That, or a big dog, are about the only thing which would deter a rapist. Oh wait, the Bay Area rape prevention industry is more interesting in keeping the dollars flowing than they are in actually preventing rapes? If they really cared about women they would be suing SF to force issuance of CCW (concealed handgun) permits.

    • Glen Parker

      Eric, the city’s irrational fear of an armed populace trumps all in SF. Really, how many more rapes and murders have to occur before we’re allowed to exercise our second amendment rights?

      • LovesTheMission

        Actually opposing gun proliferation is rational. Statistically, guns are 5x more likely to be used to kill a friend or loved one than to thwart a criminal.

        Sure, by long odds, you might stop a rapist. But that makes as much sense a betting on an inside straight in poker. You are very likely to lose the bet.

        • Eric

          Yeah that 5x statistic (not sure where it comes from) would include gang members shooting other gang members as shooting a “friend or acquaintance”. That’s why it’s so high. Gang members don’t get CCWs and they’re going to shoot each other regardless of gun laws. Don’t want to get shot? Don’t join a gang.

          Almost all the rest of the US, including every state west of the Mississippi except California and Hawaii, is shall-issue and it’s not causing any problems, including shootouts of parking spaces and so on.

          CCW holders in other states have been shown to be an exceptionally law-abiding population segment, with a crime rate lower than that of sworn police officers.

          I’m really tired of all the statistics people trot out.

  2. mari

    Please correct the date in this article to read Friday Dec 9-not Nov 9. The public relies on your accuracy of reporting. thank you

  3. If attacked, yell “fire! Bring water!” at the top of your lungs to get help. (sadly, this is more effective than yelling ‘help’ which is routinely ignored).

  4. LovesTheMission

    If you are tired of statistics, I would like to play poker with you! Hoping a gun will make you safer is a bad bet.

    Beyond the shooting of loved ones, I neglected to mention the worst risk of gun proliferation; suicide success rates.

    People that own guns succeed at suicide attempts much more often than people without easy gun access. CCW permit holders (and their children) have higher suicide rates than the general population according to a 2007 study by the Michigan State Police.

    Hard statistic prove that, on average, households without guns are safer.

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