Sexual assault on campuses is a problem. According to a survey by the Association of American Universities, 23% of female students reported being sexually assaulted as undergrads. That means 1 in 5 students experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact. It’s a scary truth, but just because its scary doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. It’s important that we have conversations about the stuff we might not want to. Whether you’re an incoming freshmen or a graduating senior, everyone has more to learn. Here are 5 tips on avoiding dangerous situations:
1. Trust your gut
We all have gut instincts, and it’s important to trust them. If you ever start to feel uncomfortable, or like things might not be right, don’t dismiss those feelings. Maybe you’re out a party feeling cornered, or maybe you’re watching Netflix with a friend. Most sexual assaults are committed by acquaintances. At college, you’re meeting new people every day, especially in those first few months. It’s important to keep your guard up. If at any point you feel uncomfortable, leave! It’s not worth risking an escalated situation.
2. Sketchy things happen at sketchy places
If we’re being honest, we all know there are some places that just aren’t worth visiting, especially not late at night. There was a dollar movie theater near my school that never sat well with me, but my friends went and I didn’t want to miss out. One night, two men followed my friend and me to my car. We got in our car and they got in theirs, and then they followed us back to campus. I had to alert campus safety and they called the cops. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the situation didn’t turn worse than it already was. I knew the dollar theater wasn’t safe at night, but I chose to go anyways. It scared me into learning an important life lesson.
3. Learn self-defense
Even when you do your best to trust your gut and avoid sketchy places, you might find yourself attacked. It’s scary to think about, but it’s the reality of 23% of female students. If the situation ever arises, it’s important to be prepared. Self-defense classes give you the proper tools to fight. They empower you to stand up for yourself. Chances are your school might offer a self-defense class as a P.E. credit. Sign up with friends! The silver lining from my terrifying night at the movies was priority registration for my schools ultra-coveted self-defense class. I learned techniques that have stuck with me, techniques that allow me to walk with confidence.
4. Stick with a friend!
The buddy system isn’t just for kindergarten. The best way to keep each other safe is to find an ally. People tease girls for always needing a friend to go to the bathroom with, but it’s actually pretty smart. In the world of college, two is better than one. Walk back to your dorm in pairs. Walk to your cars in pairs. Drive one another to each other’s cars. There are simple steps and changes that all of us can make. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
5. Date Smart
Again, college is filled with new people. These new people might even be cute, and they might even want to take you on dates. It’s important not to rush into anything. Date smart. Group dates are great ways to get to know one another, and they have a built in buddy system. Of course eventually you’ll want to spend time just the two of you. Meet at public places. Make sure friends know where you’re going. I’m repeating the advice of mother’s everywhere, but their wisdom is worth passing on. It’s not fun advice to give, but it’s necessary. Don’t get swept up in the romance, remember to keep your head on straight.
The sad truth is that articles like this are sprinkled throughout the land that is the Internet, but the statistic of 23% remains. But that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it. If anything we need to talk about it more. Statistics are one thing, and then there’s the reality—the men and women on college campuses that were victims of a terrible crime, a life-altering crime. It’s important that we keep the conversation going, for them and for you, because no cycle is ended by silence.