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Safety tips for college students

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Staying safe both on and off campus

If you're going off to college or have a kid who is, there are a few precautions you should know now since Mom and Dad aren't there to make sure you stay safe. These college safety tips will keep you and your belongings more secure.

Groupl of college girls on campus

Protecting yourself against theft

A recent study by Travelers found that 50 percent of educational institutions report that theft is the greatest hazard. But Elaine Baisden, vice president for Travelers Personal Insurance, says there are several things you can do to protect your belongings.

Baisden recommends leaving heirlooms, jewelry and other irreplaceable items at home with your parents while you're getting used to your surroundings and getting to know the people around you. Until you get there, you don't really know who you can trust... even your roommate. If it's something you really need, get a safety deposit box at the bank or a safe for your room.

She also recommends leaving your dorm locked when you're out. It's also advisable to have anything of monetary significance insured. Also, if you suspect your dorm or apartment has been broken into when you get home, don't go in. Call the police.

Protecting your personal safety

Pepper spray

When you're away at college, you'll also be out in a strange (at least at first) city. Even if you're a homebody, you'll eventually have to stray from your dorm room after dark, at which time you're more vulnerable, especially if you're a woman, to mugging, rape or more.

Baisden recommends educating yourself about school safety procedures. Know what to do in case of a fire, add the campus safety number to your phone and find out if your school has any mass emergency procedures (e.g., during a bombing or shooting).

The sad reality is, you're in more danger of suffering a sexual assault while at school than any other personal safety threat. According to a 1990 publication Fraternities of Fear: Gang Rape, Male Bonding, and the Silencing of Women by Kathleen Hirsh, at least one in four college women will be the victim of a sexual assault. More disturbingly, the Bureau of Justice reports that within at least 80 percent of these assaults, the victim knows their assaulter.

Tips to avoid sexual assault

  • If you're in your room alone (or even with your roommate) lock the door, especially if there aren't rules against boys roaming the halls.
  • Don't invite men you don't know well back to your room. If it's a study partner, meet in place where there are plenty of people, like a library or dorm common room.
  • If you're in your room with a guy, leave the door unlocked so someone can get in if you call for help or they suspect foul play. If the man isn't a love interest, leave the door open altogether.
  • Travel in groups and always know where your friends are.
  • Make an agreement with female friends to never allow each other to leave with a guy while intoxicated (according to several studies, half of all assaults happen when alcohol is involved).
  • If you're alone on a street and see a guy approaching, cross the street. If he follows, walk down the middle of the street or in a location that's well lit and makes you more likely to be seen by passing cars or people in buildings nearby.
  • Don't go into your dorm if there's a man lurking. He may try to follow you in and when you're in a private place, he has control. Go to a friend's house, the campus police, a 24-hour convenience store... anywhere you can find people. Also, don't walk into an elevator alone with a man. If he gets on while you're there, you get off.
  • If your campus allows it, carry pepper spray or other rape-defense weapons. Reconsider carrying a gun, even if it's legal. You should never pull out a gun unless you're sure that you're willing to fire it. If he's bigger than you and you hesitate, he could wrestle it away from you.
  • If you feel like you're in danger at any time, walk confidently and call 9-1-1.

More on protecting your personal safety

Safety tips for online sharing
10 Rules for dating safety
Tips on how to avoid identity theft

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