September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month
The back to school season is here, and with that, thousands of students are heading to college and university. For many students, this may be their first time away from home, living independently. They may be looking forward to moving into campus housing, making new friends, and emerging themselves in campus life.But with all the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming academic year, also comes safety considerations for all students – whether freshman or upperclassman.
National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM), occurring each September, serves as a reminder to all that safety on campus is of utmost importance to students, colleges, and universities alike.According to the U.S. Department of Justice, gender-based violence remains a public health and safety concern on college campuses, with a substantial number of college students being sexually assaulted each year.Unfortunately, incoming freshman are at a particularly high risk of victimization during the first few months of school.
Take a look at these staggering national statistics, as they pertain to the sexual assault of college students:
- 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
- Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
- Male college aged students (18-24) are 78% more likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.
- 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted.
- More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November.
What Campuses Can Do.
Considering the widespread and pervasive nature of sexual assault to college students, it is imperative that colleges and universities across the country implement a coordinated response, with comprehensive services provided by campus, local crime victim service providers, and area law enforcement agencies.In addition, orientations for incoming students which cover topics such as sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence, as well safety tips, violence prevention tactics, and survivor support should be an integral part of preparing students for the new academic year.
Campuses who may be looking to improve their response to sexual violence may visit the Center for Changing our Campus Culture website for resources and information at changingourcampus.org. In addition, the Clery Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to guiding higher education to implement effective campus safety measures, provides resources and learning opportunities each year during NCSAM. Campus administrators may find more information at clerycenter.org/initiatives/ncsam.
What Students Can Do.
Students should also make planning for personal safety an essential part of their everyday campus life. Here are a few safety precautions that students may implement during the academic year:
- Know your resources. Locate resources such as the campus health center, campus police station, and a local sexual assault service provider in the event you or a friend needs help. Notice where emergency phones are located on campus, and program the campus security number into your cell phone for easy access.
- Stay alert. When you’re moving around on campus or in the surrounding neighborhood, be aware of your surroundings. Consider inviting a friend to join you or asking campus security for an escort.
- Be careful about posting your location. Many social media sites publicly share your location. Consider disabling this function and reviewing other social media settings.
- Think about Plan B. Spend some time thinking about back-up plans for potentially sticky situations. If your phone dies, do you have a few numbers memorized to get help? Do you have emergency cash in case you can’t use a credit card? Do you have the address to your dorm or college memorized? If you drive, is there a spare key hidden, gas in your car, and a set of jumper cables?
- Be secure. Lock your door and windows when you’re asleep and when you leave the room. If people constantly prop open the main door to the dorm or apartment, tell security or a trusted authority figure.
- Make a plan. If you’re going to a party, go with people you trust. Agree to watch out for each other and plan to leave together. If your plans change, make sure to touch base with the other people in your group. Don’t leave someone stranded in an unfamiliar or unsafe situation.
- Protect your drink. If you choose to drink, don’t leave your drink unattended, and watch out for your friends’ drinks if you can. If you go to the bathroom or step outside, take the drink with you or toss it out. Drink from unopened containers or drinks you watched being made and poured.
- It’s okay to make an excuse. If you want to exit a situation immediately and are concerned about frightening or upsetting someone, it’s okay to make an excuse. Some excuses you could use are needing to take care of another friend or family member, an urgent phone call, not feeling well, and having to be somewhere else by a certain time.
- Be a good friend. Trust your instincts. If you notice something that doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
If you or someone you know has safety concerns or has been victimized by a crime, contact campus police, local law enforcement, or your local Someplace Safe office at 1-800-974-3359. For more information on Someplace Safe visit www.someplacesafe.info.
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