Students on college campuses may become targets for sexual assault or rape. Incoming students may be new to the area and are not as familiar with the local community or its resources. College campuses can also give students a false sense of safety or security by seeming like a closed community.
We should all take steps to increase safety on college campuses. VIBS has outlined some tips below to promote student safety. No tip sheet can guarantee safety – sexual violence can happen to anyone – but it is important to take preventative measures.
Please remember that if you are sexually assaulted on campus it is not your fault. Immediate help is available at VIBS SANE centers at Stony Brook University Medical Center, Peconic Bay Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital. VIBS also offers advocacy and counseling support for victims.
Tips to improve your personal safety on campus (These tips may reduce your risk for rape/sexual assault or other violent crimes):
- Know your local resources. Who do you call if you or someone you know needs immediate help? Always call 911 for emergency help. You can also go directly to the nearest SANE center in Suffolk: Good Samaritan Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center, or Stony Brook University Medical Center. Take note of where emergency phones are located on campus and make sure the campus security number is placed into your mobile phone for easy access.
- Stay alert. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you need to go into an isolated or dark area on campus, ask a trusted friend to accompany you. You can always call campus security to accompany you as well. Wearing headphones can make you a target as you may not hear someone approaching, so leave the headphones off to stay more alert.
- Be careful about posting your location. Many students post their locations on social media sites which can be easily sought out by perpetrators. Be careful about posting and remember that some social media sites use geolocation to publicly share your location. You should consider disabling this function for your own safety.
- Make sure you are with people you trust. Just because someone attends college with you, does not mean he or she is safe. Get to know people on campus first before you trust them in situations where you may be vulnerable.
- Have a back-up plan. If you end up in a bad situation, think about back-up plans beforehand. If your phone dies or you lose it, do you numbers memorized to call and get help? Do you have emergency cash kept in a safe place if your wallet is taken? If you drive, do you have a spare key that you can get to easily, and do you have enough gas in your car to get somewhere safe? Have you looked at places located close to your destination so you know where you can escape to if needed?
- Keep yourself safe. Always lock your doors and windows in your dorm, apartment and car. If other students are keeping the main doors to the dorm propped open, tell security.
Safety in social settings:
- Don’t go to parties alone. When you go to a party, go with people you know and trust and make sure you agree to watch out for each other. Make sure to touch base with these friends during the party, and don’t leave someone stranded in an unfamiliar situation.
- Protect your drink. Don’t leave your drink unattended, and watch out for your friends’ drinks. If your drink ends up being unattended, throw it away. It only takes a few seconds to add a substance to someone’s unattended drink, and these substances may have no color, taste or odor so they are undetectable. Only drink from unopened containers or drinks you watched being made and poured.
- Know your limits. Don’t overdo it and keep track of how much you have had. Be aware of your friends’ behavior and if they look like they have had too much or have been drugged, leave the party with that friend and find help immediately.
- Do what is necessary to escape a bad situation. Don’t be concerned about upsetting someone, if you are in an uncomfortable situation. You are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, pressured or threatened by anyone. You can say you are expected somewhere else and people are waiting for you; you have an urgent situation that has just arisen; or something else that requires your immediate attention so you have to leave.
- Trust your instincts. If you think something is off, it probably is. Leave the situation immediately and ask your friends to go with you.
If you have experienced rape or sexual assault, there are steps you can take to feel safer:
- Make use of on-campus resources. Colleges often provide a host of services to students including security escorts, medical and psychological services, and sexual assault services.
- Request a schedule or housing change. If you have classes with the perpetrator or live in the same building, you can request a change from your college administration. Federal and state laws require colleges to honor these requests.
- Access off-campus support services. You can seek out resources located off campus at VIBS or at a SANE center.
- Seek an order of protection. VIBS advocates can assist you with seeking an order of protection so that the perpetrator has to refrain from approaching you.
- Create a safety plan. If you are concerned for your ongoing safety, it can be worthwhile to create a safety plan. VIBS can assist you with creating a safety plan for your situation.