Increase Your Personal Safety
by Teresia Smith
With the holidays over, many young adults will be heading back to their college campus. Being on a college campus may give you a sense of security. Once you get to know many people on campus, you assume everyone watches out for each other. Unfortunately, there are perpetrators who will take advantage of that false feeling of safety. Nothing can absolutely guarantee safety, and sexual violence can happen to anyone anywhere. However, we can take steps to increase our personal safety, not only on college campuses, but anywhere.
1) Know your local resources.
Make a point to know where emergency phones are located. Program the campus security number into your cell. Locate the campus health center, campus police station and check the community for an assault service provider.
2) Stay alert when in public.
Don’t be preoccupied with your cell phone and if you use earbuds, use one ear only so you can hear and be aware of your surroundings. Consider asking a friend to join you as you go out so you are not alone. Before you leave a building for a parking lot, have your keys in hand so you can enter your vehicle quickly and lock the door behind you.
3) Don’t disclose your location or other personal information on social media.
Review your social media settings, and geolocation settings, to protect your privacy. If others have access to your phone, check randomly for new apps that may be trackers. Vary your routes daily, not taking the same paths or streets at the same time every day. Don’t let habits make you too predictable and easy to follow.
4) Don’t immediately trust new people you meet.Make them earn your trust by observing them for a time and getting to know them. College environments can make you feel like good friends quickly with those you meet, but give them time to earn your trust before you rely on them. Make sure their actions match their words.
5) Have back up plans.
Do you have important numbers memorized in case your phone dies? Do you have emergency cash in case you lose your card? Do you have your address memorized? Do you have a spare key secured somewhere? Do you monitor the gas in your car so you don’t get stranded?
6) Always lock your doors and windows when you are asleep or when you leave.Don’t prop open main doors in dorms. Lock your car doors when you drive and when you park. If you have safety concerns, talk to the campus security.
7) Protect your drink at all times.
Don’t leave a drink unattended and only drink from unopened containers or a drink you see being poured. In drug-facilitated sexual assault, a perpetrator could use a substance that has no color, taste, or odor. It is not always possible to know if something has been added to your drink.
8) If you go to a party, go with someone you trust.
Plan to go and leave together and watch out for each other. If you are feeling uncomfortable and you want to leave a situation immediately, it’s okay to use a false excuse. You are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, pressured, or threatened. You can also help a friend leave a situation that you think may be dangerous. Some excuses that could be used are needing to go take care of another friend, an urgent phone call, not feeling well, or having to be somewhere else by a certain time. Trust your instincts. If you notice something that doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
You don’t have to go through life afraid if you are prepared. Having a plan and knowing your resources can make a difference. Crisis Services of North Alabama is one of your local resources. We offer free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. You can reach our Jackson County office for an appointment at 256.574.5826. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline, where you can speak with trained crisis counselors at 256.716.1000. Reach out today. You are not alone.