College life is supposed to be a fun place for both learning and social interaction. But as with any place where large numbers of people gather, there are safety concerns for your property and yourself. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) in “8 Tips to Stay Safe as You Head to Campus This Fall,” posted August 19, 2013: “The college environment can foster a false sense of security. Remember that you just met these people, even if it feels like you have been best friends forever. Don’t assume that your new friends will definitely have your back or be looking out for your best interests.” Here are some college tips for dorm rooms and campus safety.
Lock your doors, lock your windows, lock your car, chain your bike. Sounds pretty basic. But you’d be surprised how many people have an “open door” policy of leaving everything open. Not smart. Not everyone is trusting, helpful or easy going. Make sure you have sturdy locks. And don’t prop open dorm room or residence hall doors.
Be aware of your surroundings. “Stay on well-lit and well-traveled pathways. Become familiar with the locations of campus emergency blue-light telephones. Remove ear buds or headphones so you can hear someone approaching. Carry your keys in your hand. Before entering your car, check that no one is inside or lingering nearby,” suggested Catherine Cloutier in “7 safety tips for college students” posted August 27, 2013 on the Brandeis University page of Boston.com.
Watch your drink. A date rape drug can be slipped into an unattended soft drink or alcoholic drink. To protect yourself: don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know, always get your own drink, or drink from an unopened bottle or can. If you’ve left your drink unattended, discard it and get a new one.
Don’t get drunk. Stay in control and stop when you’ve had enough. You’re vulnerable when you don’t have full use of your senses. If you’re feeling sick, ask the party host if you can stay there until you’re feeling better. Or ask a friend you trust to help you get back home.
Report suspicious activity, people, or vehicles. If something really looks out of place, don’t be afraid to report it to campus security. And don’t approach dangerous or suspicious situations yourself. It’s the job of campus police to decide if something is a threat or not, and they will handle it.
The University of California at Los Angeles offers a few more Campus Safety Tips:
• Advise someone of your whereabouts and how long you expect to be out. Inform that person if you end up staying longer than expected.
• Park in well-lit, well-traveled areas of the parking structure or lot.
• When using ATMs, keep track of who is behind you.
• When running alone, do not wear earphones, as this eliminates hearing as a defense mechanism. Try to run with a friend in the evenings.
Rape on campus
It’s not a pleasant topic, but it happens and students need to be aware of the problem and how to protect themselves. Under the U.S. Department of Education Title IX, sex discrimination is prohibited under the Education Amendments of 1972—meaning that colleges are required to offer all students the right to an education free of gender-based discrimination. When colleges discredit or mishandle complaints of sexual assault or harassment, or blame the victim, they are violating Title IX.
There are rape legal counseling organizations you can go to for help. End Rape on Campus “provides free, direct support to campus activists who are filing federal Title IX and/or Clery complaints in order to hold college and universities accountable for their handling of sexual misconduct.” Know Your IX educates college students about their rights under Title IX and gives survivors of sexual violence the tools to advocate for themselves during their schools’ grievance proceedings and to file a complaint against their colleges with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
How to protect yourself
• At night, walk with a partner back to your dorm
• Carry mace, pepper spray or a safety whistle
• Report sexual abuse right away, don’t wait
• Don’t think it’s your fault or that you were asking for it
What are some ways you keep yourself safe on campus? Let us know in the comments.