Beginning campus life as you head out for the fall semester is exciting; however, it is easy to gain a false sense of security and feeling of safety when surrounded by your peers. You think they are just honest students like yourself, right? Wrong! Remember, you don’t always know who you can trust.
New environments and new experiences come with additional risks and potentially dangerous situations. Increased campus violence is a reality. College students are at the highest risk of sexual assault – often by someone they know. Recognizing risks and being proactive are the first steps in one’s safety:
- Trust your gut and be true to yourself. If something does not feel right, it most likely is not. Trust your instincts and leave if you feel uncomfortable in a situation. Should someone pressure you, it is better to make up an excuse to leave rather than to stay and be uncomfortable, afraid, or worse. Your safety should come before someone else’s feelings or what they may think of you.
- Take control of your online life. Be mysterious! Think before you share personal information. Someone could be tracking your every move if you frequently post updates on social media on your whereabouts, activities or class schedules. Use your best judgment when “checking in” on social media sites. Do not share anything online that you would not share with a stranger.
- Make others earn your trust. You may feel a false sense of security. Remember you just met these people, even if it feels like you have been best friends forever. They may not always look out for your best interests.
- If you see something, say something. Should you question a situation, speak out and alert others surrounding you, if you can do it safely. You can always contact your resident assistant, campus police or call 911. You may prevent a crime by intervening.
- Be aware and remain alert. Pay attention to what is going on around you, whether you are at a party or walking across campus. Use well-trafficked routes and avoid being isolated with someone you do not know or trust. Take advantage of campus buses or public safety escorts that will walk you home at night.
- Make plans and be prepared. Stay together as a group when going out and know who is going. Have a designated sober friend in the group, even if you are not taking a car. Make sure your phone is fully charged, you have the number for a cab company, and enough cash to get you home, etc. Keep your phone on your person at all times, in case you are in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
- Party smart. Do not accept a drink from people you do not know well or trust. Guard your drink – stick to the ones you got or prepared yourself. Monitor what you have consumed so that you can stay in control. Ask a trusted friend for help if you feel sick or become too intoxicated.
- Be a good friend. Watch out for one another and stay in a group. Take note if a friend is acting out of character and get them to a safe place. Remember to call 911 if your suspect someone has been drugged or needs medical attention because of over-intoxication.
AFTER AN ASSAULT: IMMEDIATE STEPS
*Get to a safe place *Advocacy (call 1-800-565-HOPE)
*Contact the authorities *Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)
*Get medical attention *STI Testing
*To preserve evidence, professionals advise victims to document details about the incident as soon as possible. This will help doctors, police, and campus authorities after an attack. Do not change your clothes, shower, brush your teeth, or clean the scene of the crime until you have seen a medical professional. You may ask for a urinalysis during your examination if you believe you have been drugged.
Enjoy your college experience and make new friends you can trust!
For more information or a brochure, contact the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate at 318-992-2067.
Resources: National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-565-HOPE
RAINN: (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): rainn.org