Campus Common Sense – Tips on How to Be Safe on Campus

College brings more freedom and fewer restrictions than most students have experienced during their high school years. Newly minted undergraduates have a positive view of their fellow students and take for granted that they and their possessions are safe. Many college students are unaware of the consequences that might arise from certain social situations including dating and experimenting with drinking and drugs. Unfortunately this behavior can make them vulnerable to non-consensual sex and led to devastating events.

General Campus Safety

Students can do the most to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of theft or assault by remembering to lock their doors when they leave (even just to do their laundry), keeping valuables (laptops, ipods, etc) out of plain site, closing windows on the first floor and ensuring that anytime they access a secure building that they are aware of other individuals entering the building under their access card swipe.

Most college campuses are walker friendly if a few precautions are kept in mind:

Be aware of your surroundings and surrounding people.
Embrace the buddy system. If you are alone, call the campus escort service.
Walk in well-lit areas.
Don’t look like a victim – walk confidently, directly and at a steady pace.
Walk close to the curb, avoid alleys, bushes and doorways.
Don’t be afraid to make a scene – if you are in danger scream, yell, run, break a window to draw attention to your situation.

The Jeanne Clery Act is a federal law that mandates colleges and universities to disclose crime statistics for their campus and the public areas surrounding campus. They must disclose information on the security of and access to campus facilities, whether campus security personnel are unsworn security guards or police, and rights for victims in sexual assault cases. Importantly the law requires colleges to report campus crimes to the federal Office of Postsecondary Education in a timely fashion and notify students of threats. Click here to research the stats on a particular institution.

Many campuses set up text alert programs for their student population realizing this is the most effective way to communicate potential safety hazards to students in a timely manner. If a security concern is happening on campus the text messages keep the students informed on what to do until they receive an all-clear message. Check with your campus police or office of student safety to register for this important alert system.

Sexual Assault on Campus

Security on Campus, Inc., an advocacy group in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania has coined the phrase “red zone” which refers to the first six weeks of campus life. This group sees a 30% spike in calls from victims of alcohol abuse, hazing and sexual crimes. This six-week period is the most dangerous period of a student’s entire campus life.

One in four college age girls will be a victim of a rape or attempted rape. 90% of acquaintance rapes involve alcohol.

Precautions for women to take:

1.Watch your alcohol intake. 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
2.If you are drinking, watch your drink. Rapists use drugs as a weapon by slipping them into drinks, which takes away your ability to fight back.
3.Trust your instincts. If someone sets off your “creeper meter”, listen to it. You don’t have to be nice. Don’t worry about being polite to someone who is making you feel uncomfortable.

Taking these precautions will help reduce a female’s risk of sexual assault, but what really needs to happen is what is called bystander education. Similar to the “don’t let your friends drive drunk” campaign we need to get a similar awareness and intervention in social settings around young men who vocalize that they might intentionally take advantage of a young woman. Legally speaking if the victim did not agree to sex, it’s rape regardless of the circumstances.

If you are a victim of rape get to a safe place. Run to a public place or knock on someone’s door. Call friends to pick you up or go to the police station. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. It is important to tell someone what happened to you. Talk to the police or a crisis counselor (most campuses have a 24 hour crisis line). Get medical attention to detect injuries and test for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Evidence can be collected if you choose to take legal action. There is no set formula for recovery after such an extremely traumatic experience. Seek counseling to help you through the healing process.

Alcohol Abuse on Campus

1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes annually. 31% of college students met criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and 6% for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence according to self-reporting questionnaires about drinking habits (Knight et al., 2002). Click here for a list of other high-risk college drinking consequences.

Excessive drinking can be very hazardous to your health. Bing drinking, often times on a bet or a dare is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious. What should you do if you suspect alcohol poisoning? Be aware that a person who has passed out may die! Even after a person stops drinking the alcohol in the stomach continues to enter the bloodstream. You cannot assume that someone “sleeping it off” or passed out will be fine. Signs of alcohol poisoning include mental confusion, stupor, vomiting, seizures, irregular breathing and signs of hypothermia. Do not wait for all signs to be present to take action. If you suspect alcohol poisoning call 911 and get help.

College students are smart. Sometimes they need to be reminded. If you are on campus take stock of your actions, and if you are a parent gently remind your kids of the consequences of their behavior to their stuff, themselves and others.