9 Tips to Stay Safe on Campus

Heading back to school is an exciting time for the more than 17 million college students in the U.S., but new environments and new experiences present additional risks and potentially dangerous situations. Increased violence on campus is a harsh reality: College-aged students are at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted—often by someone they know. The first steps in staying safe are recognizing the risks and being proactive. As bystanders, students can learn ways of stepping in to prevent crimes like sexual assault from occurring.

No tips can absolutely guarantee safety—sexual violence can happen to anyone. It’s important to remember that if you are sexually assaulted on campus it is not your fault; help and support are available.

The following tips may reduce your risk for many different types of crimes, including sexual violence.

Trust your gut & be true to yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, trust your instincts and leave. If someone is pressuring you, it’s better to lie and make up an excuse to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Your safety comes before someone else's feelings or what they may think of you.

Take control of your online life. Be mysterious online. Think twice before you share personal information. Constantly posting social media updates on your whereabouts, activities or class schedules may allow someone to track your every move. Use your best judgment when “checking-in” on Facebook or Foursquare and geo-tagging images you post to Instagram. Remember this motto: If you would not share the information with a stranger, then you shouldn’t share it online.

Be secure. Lock your door and windows when you’re asleep and when you leave the room. If people constantly prop open the main door to the dorm or apartment, tell security or a trusted authority figure.

Make others earn your trust. 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 for years. Don’t assume that your new friends will have your back or be looking out for your best interests.

Be aware & stay alert. Whether you are hanging out at a party or walking across campus, pay attention to what is going on around you. If you’re alone, only use headphones in one ear to stay aware of your surroundings. Try to take well-trafficked routes and avoid being isolated with someone you don’t know or trust. Get to know your surroundings—take notice of the blue light locations and don’t be hesitant to use them if necessary. If your campus has a bus or public safety escorts that will walk you home at night, take advantage of them.

Make plans & be prepared. When going out, know ahead of time who is going and plan to stay together as a group. Construct a backup plan for the day/night so that all of your friends know where to meet up if someone gets separated and/or their phone dies. Don’t leave someone stranded in an unfamiliar or unsafe situation. Be sure to check that you have everything you need before you leave—a fully charged phone, the number for a reliable cab company, enough cash to get you home, the address to your dorm or college memorized, etc. Keep your phone on you at all times in case you find yourself in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.

Party smart. Guard your drink at parties. Don’t accept one from people you don’t trust or know well. Stick to drinks you got or prepared yourself. If you go to the bathroom or step outside, take the drink with you or toss it out. It’s not always possible to know if something has been added to someone’s drink. In drug-facilitated sexual assault, a perpetrator could use a substance that has no color, taste, or odor.

Keep track of what you’ve consumed so that you can stay in control. If you can’t remember how many drinks you’ve had, that means you’ve had too many. If you feel like you’re getting sick or are too intoxicated, ask a friend to help you get to a safe place or to a hospital.

It’s okay to lie. If you want to exit a situation immediately and are concerned about frightening or upsetting someone, it’s okay to lie. You are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, pressured, or threatened. You can also lie to help a friend leave a situation that you think may be dangerous. Some excuses you could use are needing to take care of another friend or family member, an urgent phone call, not feeling well, and having to be somewhere else by a certain time.

Be a good friend. Watch out for each other. Stick together in groups, especially when traveling from one place to the next. If a friend is acting in a way that seems out of character, take notice. If he or she is overly intoxicated or seems to need assistance, get them to a safe place and support them. If you suspect that a friend has been drugged or needs medical attention because of over-intoxication or for any other reason, call a resident assistant, campus police, or 911.

Additional resources for students


Know how to support survivors. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing the words to say, and being able to point your friend in the direction of someone who is trained to provide guidance. Most importantly, let your friend know that no matter what happened, it’s not their fault. Something as simple as “I believe you” can have a profound impact on a survivor and their recovery process. Resources like the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) provide free support to survivors and their loved ones.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

Eight out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.

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