For many freshmen, college is their first taste of independence, where they’re living on their own, some distance from home and with significant new responsibilities. It can be more than intimidating – it can be dangerous. Let’s talk about the self-defense issues around college life and some of the self defense products and tips students can use to make their lives safer. Remember to check the laws in your area and your college’s policies.
Drinking and Fighting: Alcohol is far and away the most common source of violence on campus, leading to fights in and around bars between students, and students and locals. In many cases this resembles good old fashioned schoolyard bullying and the best thing to do is to resist being provoked. Travel in a group so that you’re less likely to be attacked on the way home and don’t let your friends provoke fights. You don’t have anything to prove, and it just takes a slip on concrete or a weapon to turn posturing into something life-threatening.
If you’d like extra protection, consider buying pepper spray. It’s easy to carry and can be used against a number of attackers at once, giving you a chance to escape. Just remember that no self defense product can compensate for poor judgment. If you escalate with insults and threats in kind, using any self defense product may look like assault.
Sexual Assault: Unfortunately, sexual assault is a persistent threat on college campuses despite improvements in policy, awareness and activism. Traveling in groups is always smart, but be aware that most perpetrators are known to their victims – they’re partners and acquaintances. Keep a close watch over your drinks – never leave them unattended – because you must account for the danger of date rape drugs – and limit your alcohol consumption. Women have a lower physiological tolerance for alcohol, so they may become unexpectedly and rapidly intoxicated when drinking in a mixed group. Finally, make sure there is always someone to “check in” with, who expects to see you by a certain time unless you specifically call in. (This is actually a great tip for general safety, not just the threat of rape.)
Do yourself a favor and take a self-defense course where they cover the specific issues around sexual assault, including use of force on people known to you. For self-defense purposes, a stun gun can be useful, particularly if you keep it on your person – not just in your purse, which might be some distance away if you find yourself in your dorm or apartment.
Theft: Students often underestimate the danger of on-campus theft. Colleges are heavily trafficked, poorly secured and contain the residences of largely upper and middle-class students, making them ideal for professional thieves. It’s also a sad fact that addiction, alcoholism and mental health issues often strike during college years, leading to students stealing to either