College Campus Safety Tips: It is estimated that one in five women will be sexually victimized while attending college. Although the presence of other students in the classrooms, study halls, dorms, labs and other facilities that students frequent on campus serves as natural deterrent to the potential predators that may be lurking about, there are always those times and places on campus where a student will find herself alone and vulnerable to attack.
While it would be unrealistic to expect that we could anticipate and counter every conceivable predatory threat, we can and should make every effort to minimize our exposure to any foreseeable dangers and to purposefully make it as cumbersome as possible for potential predators to engage us. Toward that end, listed below are some basic safety tips to ensure a happy, healthy, and productive college stay.
1. Familiarize yourself with the security resources available to you. Most colleges have security call boxes located all over their campus’ allowing for quick access to help. Besides simply responding in emergencies, campus security can be called upon to escort us whenever our safety is in question.
2. Don’t go anywhere without your phone. Our cellphones are our lifelines. It’s essential that we keep them handy and charged. Campus security should be programmed into our phone’s speed dial menu.
Today, most cell phones are “smart” phones allowing them to be used for a multitude of purposes beyond just making phone calls. Most are equipped with cameras that can be used to capture and convey digital images of suspicious persons, places and circumstances. Additional “apps” can be downloaded allowing our phones to be used as flashlights, GPS devices, audio and video recorders and to provide us with directions to nearby hospitals, gas stations, restaurants, etc.
3. Load the cell phone with personal safety “apps.” Highly recommended for helping ensure one’s safety in a variety of potentially dangerous situations are free personal safety apps like bSafe and Kitestring. bSafe has us set up a network of loved ones (or “Guardians”) that can “follow” us home via GPS trace. Pressing the app’s alarm generates an alert giving them our exact location. At the same time, the app records audio and video from our phone in case we want to present it to the police later.
Whereas bSafe requires us to push a button to notify our contacts when we are in trouble, Kitestring requires us to do nothing. When traversing an area that appears dangerous, we simply give Kitestring a time frame of when to check in on us via text message. If we don’t reply back when it checks our status, Kitestring will automatically alert our emergency contacts with a custom message that we set up.
4. Secure your dorm. Although, all those sharing a dorm would agree that dorm safety is the shared responsibility of everyone living in that dorm, in truth, unless some specific provisions have been made in regard thereto, no one is consistently and reliably paying attention to who comes and goes. As such, dorms must always be regarded as inherently unsafe environments and, therefore, in need of ongoing caution and active monitoring. It is generally advisable for dorm members to meet as a group to discuss shared expectations and agree upon the individual responsibilities that each member of the dorm must assume with regard to ensuring the overall safety of all those sharing the dorm.
5. Secure personal valuables, documents, and information. Safety problems often arise when roommates are lax in screening and supervising their guests and the guests of their guests. Assuming that our dorm-mates will take responsibility for safeguarding our possessions or personal information is a naïve and unrealistic expectation. Instead, we must take it upon ourselves to secure our sensitive documents and keep valuables locked up or at least out of plain sight.
6. Have a safety buddy. Whether on campus or off, someone reliable should always know where we are and have means for getting in touch with us. It is prudent to have prearranged safety protocols in place, like a designated check-in call time and an “I’m in trouble” code word, to help alert our partner, either by our failure to call at the agreed upon check-in time or by our using the “I’m in trouble” code word, that something is wrong and that help is needed.
7. Report suspicious persons and activities to dorm mates and security. The more information security personnel have to work with the more effective they can be. Often the seemingly trivial and irrelevant bits of information that students share with each other and with security personnel proves critical in the identification and apprehension of potentially dangerous persons lurking on campus grounds.
8. Avoid activities that compromise your judgment. On average, nearly 50% of sexual assaults involving college students are associated with alcohol use. In 2013 alone, more than 14,700 students (ages 18 to 24) became victims of alcohol-related sexual assault on U.S. college campuses.
The partying that traditionally takes place on and off college campuses must be recognized for the extreme danger such activity poses. Not only must we consider the ability of alcohol consumption and drug use to interfere with the exercise of our own good judgment and ability to protect ourselves, we must also consider the similar deleterious effects that alcohol consumption and drug use can have on the judgment and behavior of those we are partying with. Persons that we might ordinarily feel comfortable with may, under the influence of their alcohol consumption or drug use, begin to exhibit behaviors that are insensitive, irrational, and predatory.
Like everywhere else, the rules of college safety, both on and off campus, require that we stay alert and work proactively to minimize our risks with regard to victimization. In general, our safety will depend upon our making smart lifestyle choices that minimize our physical exposure to attack and that serve to deter potential attackers from concluding that we are vulnerable to attack. But, even if we have neglected to do all that we can to avoid victimization, the bottom line is that no one ever has the right to harass, threaten or assault us. Should we find ourselves the target of or the victim of any predatory behavior, we should, both for our own psychological well being and physical welfare as well as for the welfare of all other past and potential future victims, report our assault to school and police authorities and insist upon the aggressive prosecution of the person(s) involved.
Dr. Arnold van Deuren is a personal safety and self defense expert. His CounterStrike programs arm participants with the self-defense skills and personal safety strategies needed to avoid victimization.
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