The root of sexual assault is power abuse.
Of course, we have the right to say NO. And we have the right to say it at any time, because NO means NO, but it also means STOP.
Consent HAS to be mutual, certain, loud and clear. Consent HAS to be your own choice. You also have the right to withdraw your consent at any time during sexual activity and also each time another sexual activity occurs.
However, no one and I mean literally no one can guarantee that a simple NO will protect us. I learned this the hard way.
We still live in a world where a person with more power, social capital, and resources than you can strip you off credibility and leave you unprotected.
So what shall we do?
I say, the best strategy to protect yourself against sexual assault should be to never put yourself in the position to say no. Be aware of power play, your role in the dynamics of a certain relationship and do not play games with risk. Know when it is appropriate to display you sexuality. Do not rely on a simple fact that we have to be equal and free. Remember that being free does not mean being careless.
Advocate for humanity and respect in all you do.
Stay humble and remember that the law protects you, but only once you have become a victim.
Prevention has proven to be a matter of a social paradigm shift in the concepts of dating, gender-role norms, helping each other, conflict-resolution skills, positive attitude promotion, bystander engagement, prosocial intervening behaviors, normative beliefs about sex and rape, sexual consent.
This shift cannot happen overnight. So, in the meantime, accept the maximum amount of responsibility you can to stay safe and what is more, stay alert for violent behavior and ring the bell, when you recognize it! Disown the ones, who are harassing you and disrespecting you, as well as those around you.
Stay strong and stay safe!