For those going to college for the first time this fall, safety is something on everyone’s minds. Many news outlets shout out how sexual offenses and assault are “practically an epidemic” on college campuses. Furthermore, frightening statistics show that college-aged students are at the highest risk of being the victim of several types of crime. Some of these are committed by someone the victim knows well. But as chilling as these can be, the news tends to hype up bad news for more views. More importantly, there are things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a statistic.
Nobody should have to face becoming a victim of crime first-hand, and although it is never the fault of the victim, there are still plenty of things that college-age students can do to keep themselves safe.
Walking to Class or Walking Home
Contrary to what some people believe, most crimes aren’t committed by strangers who attack women or other vulnerable groups late at night. Many crimes can be committed by fellow students you know. But night attacks can still happen as there tend to be fewer witnesses at night, making criminals – both familiar and unfamiliar – bold enough to attack.
To protect yourself, try not to go out by yourself after dark if you can help it. Walk with friends, try to stick to well-lit or crowded places, avoid shortcuts, and don’t wear headphones or earbuds. If someone asks you for directions or a question from a vehicle, answer from a distance. Don’t get within arm’s length of the vehicle. Finally, if you are attacked during your walk, it helps to have a can of pepper spray with you. Pepper spray is very painful when sprayed into the eyes, and it has been known to incapacitate even the largest and most dangerous assailants.
Drink and Party Responsibly
Whether people want to admit it or not, drinking alcohol and partying is a big part of the college experience. Schools are full of young men and women who are away from home for the first time and may be getting their first true taste of alcohol. Needless to say, many freshmen don’t handle alcohol responsibly. Becoming drunk means you aren’t thinking straight, meaning it is easier for you to make decisions you regret when you are sober. It’s easier to get into a fight or take violent actions. It makes you an easier target to pickpocket or steal from. And, sadly, many people also take advantage of this kind of irresponsible drinking and use it as a chance (or excuse?) to have sexual encounters.
Know your limits with each type of alcoholic drink and stop when you have had enough when to prevent you from becoming drunk. If going to a nightclub keep your valuables secure or consider using a “get your ID here” website to get a copy ID so your real ID stays safe. Don’t drink on an empty stomach since that will cause the alcohol to be absorbed by your body more quickly. Always make sure that you have a sober friend with you and keep a close eye on your drink so that nobody has the chance to slip something into it.
Tell friends where you are
Whether you are frequenting a bar you know like the back of your hand or you are visiting a new friend at their home off-campus, tell a friend where you are. If you plan to go other places in the night tell them that too, and tell them when you get home safely. Should anything happen, your friends and law enforcement will have a record of your last steps to find and help you.
Stay calm and respect boundaries
College is a place where stress flies high and where it’s easy to get worked up over the littlest things. You’ll also be in contact with people from all different kinds of backgrounds, and what they may find comfortable, you may not. Many incidents on college campuses happen because stress was not handled well or because personal and physical boundaries were not respected.
If someone says no it means no. If you feel a fellow college student is being problematic on campus there are many things you can do. You can seek help from the faculty staff or report incidents to them. You can intervene and tell that person to respect boundaries but ensure your safety and the safety of other people will not be compromised by doing this.
Trust your gut
Above all else, learn to trust your gut whenever you’re in an unfamiliar situation. If something doesn’t feel right to you or you feel uncomfortable about a certain situation, don’t be afraid to leave. Your intuition can tell you more than you know, so you should listen to it at all times. It could save your life. And be sure to carry UDAP Pepper Spray the world’s hottest pepper spray!