Assault and rape of college students is not new. For decades, college aged women have been the target of sexual abuse and in many cases are silenced by powerful people. But recent news reports of college women being attacked highlight the importance of safety not just on campus but at popular student hot spots. The following safety tips can prove useful for anyone, but are particularly important for college students who may be on their own in a new environment.
Travel in a Group or With a Friend
Predators look for those who are alone and vulnerable. Have a trusted friend to accompany you or travel with a group. Agree to stay with one another or check in with each other occasionally. If you don’t have someone to go out with, be extra vigilant and stay near other groups of people.
Let Others Know Your Plans
Tell someone where you’ll be and for how long, especially if you are going alone. Have them check in with after you’ve returned so that if something happens, they’ll know when to be worried. It’s also helpful to have someone you can call at any time to chat, for instance if you feel vulnerable. A predator is less likely to target someone on the phone.
Stay in Well-Lit Areas
Whether traveling by car or walking, stay away from dark areas. If you are out at night, park in well lit areas near entrances. When walking, stay on main pathways with other people. Avoid taking shortcuts through darkened streets or alleys.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Remain vigilant at all times, looking for anything that seems suspicious. For example, someone that gets too close or seems to be following you, particularly in parking lots. Always look around and behind while walking. Don’t wear earbuds or headphones while walking alone at night. Check around and inside your car before approaching or getting inside. It may sound paranoid, but once it becomes a habit it won’t feel like an inconvenience.
Trust Your Instinct
If something feels wrong, there’s probably a reason. Our subconscious recognizes and puts together information before our conscious mind is able to do so. That’s why trusting your gut is so important. For more information, read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.
Learn Basic Self-Defense
Although your attacker may be bigger and stronger, self defense tactics can stun or distract him long enough for you to get away. Many colleges offer self-defense courses for students. If yours doesn’t, check out local gyms or martial arts training centers. You can also sign up for online self defense courses.
Don’t Leave Drinks Unattended
One of the most important safety tips for college women is to not leave drinks unattended. Drugs can easily be slipped into drinks and many women have fallen victim to these substances. Make your own drink or watch it being prepared and never leave the drink unless you have a trusted friend to keep watch.
It’s an unfortunate reality that women are vulnerable to violence. College is a time when young women are on their own and enjoying the freedoms that come with being an adult. But the risks increase as well, so understanding the dangers and taking steps to prevent harm are a crucial part of the learning process.