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College Safety 101

Knowing these safety concerns and how to protect yourself can allow you to have a safe and happy college experience.

Kara Nelson

April 17, 2014

College Safety 101
College, like the rest of life, has many things to enjoy but also has its share of risks. I’m not talking about “homework kills” either. There are many issues that affect the health and safety of both you and your friends. Knowing these safety concerns and how to protect yourself can allow you to have a safe and happy college experience.

1. Anxiety.

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Whether you have social anxiety or worry constantly about your classes, anxiety is mentally, physically and emotionally draining. You may feel constant stress, an upset stomach, lose sleep or even have an anxiety attack. The good news is that you can often get help. There are self-help methods like relaxation, exercise and breathing or thought exercises. Schools often offer stress management classes or counseling. If you feel that you may have a serious problem with anxiety, consult with your doctor.

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2. Campus Safety.

No campus is 100% secure. The first, most common safety suggestions are to be aware of your surroundings, occasionally change-up your routine and walk with a buddy, particularly at night.

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University security centers usually offer escort services as well to walk you to your car or provide safe transportation. You can also take self-defense classes and carry mace. Always report any crime, whether petty theft, physical assault, or rape. Know your campus security locations, emergency phone or button locations and security’s phone number. Be proactive and check with security if emergency buttons and phone numbers work because sometimes these things fall into disrepair. It is up to students to place pressure on the school to make campus a safer place.

3. Rape Prevention.

Of course, the biggest warning is to avoid dangerous places and don’t accept drinks or leave them unattended, especially around strangers. Self-defense also comes in handy. Try to keep first dates at a public location and don’t go with strangers to secluded places or your dorm room. If you are ever raped or sexually assaulted, whatever your gender, report the crime to the police and to your school. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics' “Female Victims of Sexual violence, 1994-2010”: “In 2005-10, 78% of sexual violence involved an offender who was a family member, intimate partner, friend, or acquaintance.” There is absolutely no excuse for rape, even if you know the person. How would you feel if the person did it to someone else, such as your best friend, and you could have prevented the crime from happening again? Or, what if someone had reported your attacker and your rape could have been prevented? While it is understandably extremely difficult to come forward, reporting this crime does a service to yourself and everyone else at risk. Most importantly, if you are raped, there are resources. Go to the police and file a report--you technically don’t have to press charges immediately, but if you get rid of the evidence or shower, then it makes building a case much harder. Counseling services are also available on college campuses nationwide, crisis centers or through sexual assault helplines such as RAINN, the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can reach RAINN at 1.800.656.HOPE.

4. Partying.

Alcohol can kill you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes: “There are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States.” If you do decide to drink, drink in moderation. And, if you drink, never drive under any circumstance. Losing a friend or loved one in a drunk-driving incident is devastating, whether it is the other driver or your loved one who was drinking. Alcohol increases the risk of crime. According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.” Drunkenness and binge drinking bring the risk of death. You risk damaging your pancreas, liver, heart and brain in addition to doing things you will regret. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate, “low-risk” drinking for men is “no more than 4 drinks on any single day AND no more than 14 drinks per week” and for women “no more than 3 drinks on any single day AND no more than 7 drinks per week.” Some common suggestions are to eat when drinking and put a glass of water between drinks. The best option is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendation of only one drink per day for women and only two drinks per day for men. Never mix alcohol with medications unless you have spoken with your doctor about it. Do not drink if there is any chance you could get pregnant. It’s important to recognize the risk of alcoholism for yourself or others--don’t be in denial, especially if “problem drinking” is common in your family. Some major warning signs: Can you or a friend only go to a party if there’s booze? Do you or a friend find the “need” alcohol, especially during stressful times? To assess your risk or that of a friend with alcohol, take this quiz. Not getting help for an addiction to drugs or alcohol is dangerous and can easily ruin your life or future career. If you feel you or a friend may have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse, seek help at your college counseling center, a local crisis center or you can find addiction helplines here. Most importantly, if a friend has fallen into constant drunkenness or addiction to drugs, encourage them to get help. If all else fails, involve other friends and your friend’s family in your efforts. College can be a great time, if you are aware of the risks to your health and well-being and if you take advantage or resources to address these risks. Have fun but, please, always be safe!

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