Now more than ever, there is a spotlight on the safety of college students. As you send your student off to school, or prepare for college yourself, keep safety in mind to help prevent sexual assault and other crimes. Here are my 5 quick tips on staying safe this semester.
Your dorm room is a home away from home, but it’s not invincible.
Your RA will likely advise that you leave your door open to encourage your neighbors to stop by. If you do so, make sure you’re in your room and have an eye on your things. Be smart and cautious about who you let in. If you’re not in your room, lock your door. More than 50% of intrusions occur from first floor windows and doors, so be extra aware of security if you live on the ground level and invest in some inexpensive, portable alarms. If you’re living off-campus, play detective – check police blotters and crime rates in your prospective neighborhood. Before you choose a building, check fire exits, locks, buzzers, etc. and have a conversation with your landlord.
Consent means yes.
Know what consent looks like, and only proceed with sexual activity if you have received an explicit cue that your partner is OK with what’s going on. Give your partner an opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – and back off if that’s what the other person wants. If your partner is intoxicated, don’t misinterpret silence or passivity for consent. RAINN is just one organization who spells this out with great talking points.
If you’re a witness to someone being harassed or assaulted, or have a feeling something bad might happen, step in and help.
Bystanders are powerful – they can serve as witnesses to a crime, help deter someone’s questionable behavior, and help victims get the help they need. So, intervene if you see someone being sexually assaulted. Offer assistance, unless you’re putting yourself at risk – then, call 911. Don’t leave until the authorities arrive, so that the perpetrator knows there’s a witness present. Learn more from RAINN.
Carry pepper spray if your campus allows, or a personal alarm. There are many options but find one that’s easily accessible and one that you know how to use.
Pepper spray provides protection at a safe distance, meaning you don’t have to go hands on with your attacker. The industry’s leading brand offers 25 bursts per keychain canister, giving you protection against multiple threats. If your campus doesn’t allow pepper spray, carry a personal alarm so that you can easily call for help when you need it.
You wouldn’t leave for class without your laptop or your books, so don’t leave for a night out without a charged cell phone and emergency cash.
It’s important to plan ahead for a night out, even if you’re just going to the same bar you usually go to, or the same house party you always stop by. Making sure you have a working cell phone, some cab fare, and a designated check in time with your friends is the best way to make sure everyone makes it home safe. Another thing to note? Don’t ask Uber or your cab to drop you off at the end of the street to save a few bucks – get dropped off right in front of your building and head straight inside.
With love and respect,
Jennifer Cassetta, Self defense and safety expert