By Sam Coren
Whether you're a freshman or a senior in college - it's easy to take your own safety for granted. While schools across the nation employ several tactics from private police squads to emergency call boxes - even campus escort services - in order to keep their students safe, you can't ignore the fact that your own actions play a major role.
Recently, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, released these helpful safety tips for college students. "While you can't prevent a perpetrator from committing an act of sexual violence, practical steps can be taken to improve safety and reduce risk," said Katherine Hull, spokesperson for RAINN. "It’s important for students to be made aware of these possible risks, look out for one another, use common sense and know how and where to get help if they need it."
Read over RAINN's tips and feel free to share your own campus safety tips in the comments!
1. Trust your instincts and be yourself.
If you feel unsafe, or even uncomfortable, in any situation, go with your gut. Don't worry about what others think; your own safety comes first.
2. Use your cell phone as a tool.
Make sure it's fully charged before you leave home and if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, shoot a quick text for a "friend-assist." Make a plan before you go out just in case your phone dies, so you can meet up with your friends at a specific location at a certain time.
3. Be careful when leaving status or away messages online.
Take caution when using the "check-in" feature on Facebook or Foursquare. Leaving information about your whereabouts reveals details that are accessible to everyone. Use common sense so that someone can’t track your every move. If you wouldn’t give the information to a stranger, then don't put it on your online profile.
4. Wait to let your guard down until people earn your trust.
A college campus can foster a false sense of security. Don't assume people you've just met will look out for your best interests; remember that they are essentially strangers.
5. Don't be afraid to hurt someone's feelings.
If you find yourself in an unsafe situation it's OK to lie. Make up an excuse as to why you have to go. It's better to make up a reason to leave than to stay in a possibly dangerous situation. Your safety comes before someone else's feelings.
6. If you see something, say something!
Intervene if a situation seems questionable or if someone's safety is at risk. By taking action you can prevent a crime from being committed. Remember you can also contact your resident assistant or campus police.
7. Stick with your friends and watch out for each other.
Arrive together, check in with one another throughout the night, and leave together. Think twice about going off alone and if, for whatever reason, you have to separate from your friends, let them know where you are going and who you are with.
8. Drink responsibly and know your limits.
Don't accept drinks from people who you don't know or trust and never leave your drink unattended. If you have left your drink alone, get a new one. Always watch your drink being prepared. At parties, stick to drinks you got or prepared yourself instead of common open containers like punch bowls.
9. Watch out for your friends.
If a friend seems out of it, is way too intoxicated for the amount of alcohol they've had, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safe place. If you suspect that you or a friend has been drugged, call 911. Be explicit with doctors so they can administer the correct tests.
10. Be aware of your surroundings.
Whether you're walking home from the library or at a party be mindful of potential risks. Get to know your campus and learn a well-lit route back to your dorm or place of residence. Think of a safe exit strategy. Are there people around who might be able to help you? Is there an emergency phone nearby?