According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, college-aged women are at an extremely elevated risk of sexual assault. An estimated one in five women in college experience sexual assault during their time enrolled. A majority of these sexual assault incidents on college campuses occur between August and November, when students are still acclimating to the college environment and spending more time at parties or social events. As the semester begins, here are tips for staying safe on campus and taking precautions when spending a night out.
STAY WITH FRIENDS, LEAVE WITH FRIENDS
Studies show that women feel more unsafe than men when doing mundane activities alone. A recent YouGov study found that 46% of women surveyed never go to bars alone. Perpetrators are less likely to attack women who appear to be with groups of two or more, according to the same study. Avoid any unnecessary advances from strangers by going out with friends, sticking with them throughout the night, and going home with them. If you’re alone for any reason, be sure to share your location with friends and/or let them know where you’ll be.
PROTECT YOUR DRINK
Alcohol is consumed nearly every day on college campuses, often at parties and social events. While consuming alcohol is not an independent risk factor for sexual assault, perpetrators often slip date rape drugs or “roofies” into a potential victim’s drink to weaken their ability to defend themselves against unwanted sexual advances. Common date rape drugs do not have a smell or taste and can quickly and easily dissolve into alcoholic beverages. Open and serve yourself your own drink. Do not take drinks from strangers. Do not leave your drink unattended; and if you must, don’t retrieve it.
CONFIRM YOUR RIDE
Earlier this year, a student at the University of South Carolina was found dead after getting into a car she believed to be her Uber. Similar incidents of sexual assault have occurred all over the country, prompting ride-sharing companies to increase their safety measures. Apps like Uber and Lyft have developed technologies that allow riders to share their location and trip details with contacts. They’ve also implemented a “panic” button, which immediately alerts local police when pressed by the user. Authorities encourage riders, especially those riding at night, to take their own precautions before getting into any vehicle. This includes confirming the car model and license plate, following along on your own map, and asking the driver who they’re waiting for before entering the car.
KNOW HOW TO CONTACT AUTHORITIES
Several universities across the country have installed their own versions of a blue-light system, a network of emergency phones spaced out around campus. No matter how long you’ve been on campus, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the locations of emergency contact services and your school’s safety department. Many universities have introduced safety notification apps such as CampusSafe and LiveSafe to dispatch local authorities at the click of a button. If your university or college does not offer these services, talk to your safety department about how students can find help or contact local police in case of an emergency.