For many young people, the life they lead as college students seems as far away from the “Real” world as earth is from the sun. Unfortunately, that kind of mindset is one of the things that clouds thinking, especially when it comes to dealing with something as difficult as rape.
The reality is that rape is a problem on college and university campuses all over the country. It can happen in major cities or in small towns. The best way to prevent rape is to be careful, thoughtful and cautious: it’s also important to behave in a way that will ensure your safety.
How then can a college or university student protect themselves or their friends from rape?
1) Purchase a rape whistle.
Rape crisis centers usually have whistles they sell. These whistles are very loud. The idea is that anyone who hears a whistle, especially after dark, will contact the authorities. Whether it works like that all the time is hard to say. What a whistle is almost certain to do is scare a potential attacker away.
2) Carry pepper spray.
As long as pepper spray is legal in the city or town where the college is, it can be helpful to carry such a spray. These sprays will momentarily blind an attacker. They will also leave a brightly colored substance where the potential attacker was sprayed. It makes it easier for law enforcement to catch the criminal after they flee.
3) Never walk alone at night.
The single most important thing any young college woman can do to protect herself is avoid walking or being out alone at night. A group of women is a lot less likely to get attacked than a single woman alone is. If you are on a date, make sure that the young man who takes you out takes you to your door and waits until you get in.
4) Take advantage of ride services.
Some colleges and universities will offer some type of transportation service that takes young people home from bars at night. It is designed to prevent people from driving while intoxicated, but it is also designed to ensure that people get home safely.
5) Avoid going to parties alone.
One of the less obvious ways to protect yourself is to avoid going to parties alone. If you are at a frat party or at a party at which people are drinking, and alcohol consumption seems excessive, make sure that you have a plan that allows you to stick together with some friends. Wandering off alone could get you in a lot of trouble. When people are intoxicated, they are less inhibited.
6) Never allow a strange person to get you a drink.
When you’re at a bar or a party, never accept a drink from a strange person. You have no idea whether you can trust the person, let alone what their motives might be. A lot of assaults had occurred when some perpetrator slipped something into a drink. The flip side of this is that you should never leave your drink unattended.
7) Program your cell phone.
Be sure to put emergency numbers into your cell phone. That way you can call for help if and when you need it.
8) Learn the campus layout.
Lean the layout of the campus. Some campuses have special emergency phones that are placed throughout the campus. If you discover that these phones appear throughout the campus, or for that matter anywhere on campus, this should alert you to the fact that there is a problem there. Discover which parts of the campus are especially dark at night because these can be potential hiding places for criminals. Find out if there is a security escort system.
9) What’s in your purse or wallet.
Be especially careful of what you carry in your purse or wallet. Don’t carry large amounts of money with you, especially if you are out at night. Don’t carry credit cards unless you need them. If you can do so, lock your cell phone so that it can only be accessed with a password. If someone steals it, it will be useless to them.
10) The most important way to protect yourself or your friends from rape on a college or university campus is to be vigilant and careful.
Use common sense. Allow fear to guide your logic. Avoid being alone if you are intoxicated. If you are out drinking with your friends, have one designated sober person so that they can look out for the rest of you.
11) Don’t allow yourself to be wandering around town or campus alone at night.
Make sure that if you have to be at the library at night, you have a group of people there with you. If you have a job for which you must work at night, find someone to escort you to your car after work.
12) Don’t allow yourself to be too trusting.
Leaving your doors open isn’t something that is smart to do. Carry your keys so that you can use them as a weapon, if necessary. As hard as it may seem, try not to look like you are afraid. Fear is often what makes someone the perfect target for a criminal.
13) If you are attacked, contact law enforcement immediately.
Go to a hospital and allow them to do a rape exam. It’s not a pleasant thing to go through, and it can be humiliating, but understand that this is the way that medical professionals can get evidence that may lead law enforcement to catch the person who assaulted you.
Ask for a rape counselor, if you feel the need for one, and take advantage of whatever services the rape crisis center has to offer you. Those services are always free, and they will never stand in judgment of you.