Monday, November 15, 2010

College Prep Guide: Staying Safe on Campus

Part 1 in a series of articles on getting you ready for life on campus.

By Daphne Lacroix

ABC Nightline recently reported that “A recent study from the Department of Justice estimated that twenty five percent of college women will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate within a four-year college period.”

I was utterly shocked by this overwhelming statistic. As a high school senior currently visiting and applying to colleges, I started asking myself, “Will I be safe from crime at these prospective colleges,” and “How can such a tragedy be prevented from happening to me?”

Truth is, rape is not always completely preventable; even a conservatively dressed woman walking alone from class to class could be a victim. Shockingly, rapists do not always select their victims by their appearance. They select victims that are vulnerable and accessible, so oftentimes sexual attractiveness is not an issue.

Another myth is that if a woman would not want to be raped, she could fight off her attacker. Even if the rapist is not using a weapon, the element of shock, surprise, fear, and harm could easily overpower a victim. That being said, what can we do?

Though it is difficult to delineate specific steps to completely erase the chance of such a crime happening, there are certain precautions that can be taken. Though it may be difficult, try to stay with a group of people who know you when walking through campus and other populated areas. Walking alone, especially at night, through a campus can instantly make you a target.

Be aware. Though you may feel more secure listening to your I-pod or talking on your cell phone, understand that these distractions divert you and make you a more attractive victim. In the case where no one is available to walk you to your next destination, try to contact a safety service. Most colleges offer safety programs where you can call a phone number and have a fellow student or security guard accompany you through the campus, and offer Blue Light System, a security precaution where you can contact campus security in case of emergency.

However, not all campus rapes occur between complete strangers; up to 57% of the rapes occur on a date, and over 50% of victims and 70% of assailants had been using drugs or alcohol prior to the assault. Furthermore, men are more likely than women to assume that a woman who drinks alcohol on a date is a willing sex partner. 40% of men who think this way also believe it is acceptable to force sex on an intoxicated woman. Consequently, it is important to be in control of oneself and to abstain from excessive partying, especially in foreign environments. It is imperative to be aware and in control of uneasy situations and possibly prevent a tragedy from occurring.

Finally, increased communication about the subject is undeniably the key to widespread awareness. Statistical studies indicate that fewer than 20% of crimes of sexual violence are reported to the police. Embarrassment, confusion, and shock oftentimes stop women from reporting the crimes. Some women even believe that it is okay to be violated and that they perhaps even deserve it. The absurdity of this is simply astounding. It must be made apparent that any type of non-consensual action is, in fact, not acceptable and illegal.

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