Staying Safe on Campus
When it comes to your security, it always pays to over-prepare.
By Riley Heruska, Austin College
I won’t lie to you: I first began considering the issue of female safety on campus when I hardcore binged “Criminal Minds” over the holiday break.
Before I knew it, I was checking behind the shower curtain every day to make sure no wicked character was lurking in the shadows, ready to slice me into pathetic ribbons. Yes, the show itself is a fictitious account of ridiculously intelligent FBI profilers and the malicious villains they trap, but one glaring detail stood out to me—a staggering number of the show’s victims are young females. It’s enough to make even the most reasonable girls in college feel a little uneasy.
Interestingly, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states that males are much more likely to be murdered than females, which contradicts the ratio portrayed in much of television. However, women experience more intimate partner violence and are more likely to be assaulted sexually.
Statistics have revealed that women between the ages of 18 and 24 are at an elevated risk of sexual violence. In fact, one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Those numbers exclude robberies, murders, kidnappings and other dangers.
I include these statistics not to terrify young women, but to encourage them to take their safety into their own hands. No, you don’t have to be able to mimic Anne Hathaway’s style of kicking butt in stilettos when you feel threatened, but with today’s technology and resources, there are many measures college females can take to feel a little bit safer.
1. Employ the Buddy System
This one seems like a no-brainer, but don’t let that downplay the effectiveness of this strategy. You’ve been told since you were young not to wander down wayward alleys alone or to attend parties without a close friend in tow, and there’s a reason for this advice: Women are more likely to be targeted if they are alone.
Traveling in pairs or groups is not a rape-prevention method, but it does help reduce the risk of becoming a victim. If you don’t have a buddy with you, send your parents or friends your schedule so that it will be noticeable if you unwillingly deviate from it, especially at night when assaults are more likely to occur. The bottom line is that you always want someone you trust to have an idea of where you are and when you should be home.
2. Download an App
Luckily for women today, technology can turn your cellphone into a mini-buddy in your pocket on those nights you want to ditch the party before your friends do. Apps like “Watch Over Me,” “Circle of 6” and “bSafe” are available for IOS and Android devices, and they can make a world of difference in your nightly trek home.
When I lived in London for a brief period and had to occasionally walk home late at night alone, I used an app to alert my boyfriend that I was on my way home. If I didn’t report that I was home by a certain time, the app would alert him to check on my location and welfare. Simply having my phone with me made me feel as though I had some sort of weapon to ward off potential threats.
3. Monitor Your Appearance (But Not in the Ways You Might Think)
Everyone has heard the absolutely nonsensical idea that a woman’s clothing can increase her risk of becoming a rape victim. Countless pieces of research have revealed that women in tight-fitting or skimpy clothing are no more likely to be raped than a woman covered head-to-toe in heavy apparel.
So, how can your appearance protect you? Well, offenders have told police that they are more likely to target a woman with hair that can easily be grabbed. Next time you’re heading to a party or an area you’re not entirely comfortable in, consider wearing your hair down.
Sexual predators are also more likely to target women who seem easily distracted or unsure of themselves. Even the way you walk can attract a rapist’s attention: Women who appear to stride with more confidence are less likely to be selected as potential victims.
So, when you head out for the night, don’t worry about dawning a slinky tank top. Instead, focus on radiating confidence and stay visibly aware, even as you let loose and throw back a drink or two.
4. Watch Out for Date Rape Drugs – Even the Ones That Seem Harmless
Statistics about the drugs employed by assaulters are somewhat difficult to obtain, because they do not stay in victims’ systems for too long.
Despite the use of “roofies” and other substances in some cases, many experts believe that alcohol is actually the number one “date rape” drug.
One study states that 72 percent of female rape victims on college campuses were under the influence of alcohol, and most were so drunk that they were not able to consent to any sexual activity.
Therefore, keep your eye on your Jack and Coke to prevent any unwanted substances from sneaking in, but also monitor your own intake. Don’t let alcohol assist a would-be offender.
5. Carry a Weapon
About 80 percent of sexual assaults only involve the use of physical force. In other words, rapists are fairly unlikely to bring a weapon with them when attacking a young female. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider having something to protect yourself with in your purse or pocket.
Take advantage of that Amazon Prime subscription you signed up for months ago and order a handy-dandy pepper spray keychain. Keep a whistle or loud noisemaker in your bag to attract attention if necessary. Sure, these measures might seem over the top now, but one day, you might be thanking your lucky stars that you armed yourself.
6. Take a Self-Defense Course
Come on, admit it: You kind of want to take a self-defense course just to see how bad ass you can really be, and there is no shame in that. As I’ve indicated before, confidence is a huge asset when it comes to protecting yourself. Research has shown that women who have undergone at least some self-defense training are less likely to run into worrisome incidents.
You don’t have to be muscular or large to learn some of the quick and dirty tricks that could save your life one day. I’m only 5’3”, and I’ve learned how to escape numerous kinds of physical assaults. Thankfully, I’ve never had to employ any of the skills I’ve obtained, but knowing that I’ve learned a little helps me to feel more in control of my own body.
I wish tactics like these weren’t necessary and that every girl at school could traipse around campus without fearing for her safety. However, today’s world isn’t one painted with rainbows and pixie dust, and women are forced to consider unimaginable threats even in ordinary situations. The good news is that no woman is powerless, and by taking the time to learn and prepare, every female can work to end assaults against innocent girls.