8 Tips to Stay Safe as you Head to Campus This Fall
Heading back to school is an exciting time for the more than 17 million of 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. Today, RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, released helpful safety tips for college students headed back to school.
"With headlines of sexual assaults on college campuses frequently in the news, this year's tips are especially important for all students heading back to school," said RAINN spokesperson Katherine Hull.
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 even 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.
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 forever. Don’t assume that your new friends will definitely have your back or be looking out for your best interests.
If you see something, say something. If a situation seems questionable, speak up and alert others around you to it. By intervening you can prevent a crime from being committed. It can be difficult to know what to do, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes it helps to stop and take a deep breath. Remember, you can always contact your resident assistant or campus police or call 911.
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. Try to take well-trafficked routes and avoid being isolated with someone that 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. Always have a designated sober friend in the group, even if they won’t be driving. 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, etc. Keep your phone on you at all times in case you find yourself if 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 happen to walk away from it, get a new one. Keep track of what you’ve consumed so that you can stay in control. If you feel like you’re getting sick or are too intoxicated, ask to help you get to a safe place or to a hospital.
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 911.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it's not your fault. You are not alone. Talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. Help is just a call or click away via RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. The hotlines have helped more than 1.9 million people since 1994. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit rainn.org.