Girl in red holding pepper spray in front of a hedge.

Staying Safe On Campus

By Piper Blake
Web Content Contributor

https://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=62086553

The University of South Carolina has been greatly impacted by the murder of Samantha Rowland. Rowland was a senior at USC and was preparing for law school in the fall. She went out the Friday of March 29 with a group of friends and when she was leaving alone, she ordered an Uber to pick her up. However, the car she got into was not the one she was waiting for. This mistake ultimately led to her death. The video above describes the events that took place after she entered the car and it’s chilling. The suspect behind the murder had activated the child locks once she was inside so she had no way of escaping.

This story made me so angry and aware of the threats that we face daily even on college campuses. Men and women can be targets for other people’s intentions whether it be physically or aggressively. However, it’s more common for women to be considered the “easy prey” when targeted due to the preconceived ideas of our weakness and naivety. We are always told to pay attention to our surroundings and to not put ourselves in situations we can’t get out of, but what about the situations you aren’t prepared for. Rowland had no idea she was getting into the wrong car. That is why I wanted to create a list of ways to verify your safety in situations that are unfamiliar and to utilize the resources offered on campus. The best way to be prepared for the worst-case scenario is to plan for it ahead of time.

Carry Some Type of Deterrent

When I was preparing to come to college, my father equipped me with pepper spray to keep on my keychain. He knew I usually always have my wallet in my hands, so if I was approached it would be easily accessible. Having some type of protection in your hand can save your life. Anything sharp can be used to keep someone away. I have always been reluctant to the idea of having the pepper spray on me because I never saw the need. Now I realize you can never really know when you could be put in a situation where you must save your own life.

Use Campus Resources

Texas State University Police Department offers many self-defense workshops for free that students can take. Krav Maga is one of these courses that teaches you how to de-escalate situations and defensive tactics. I have thought about going to a class multiple times, but again I was in denial that I would never use those skills. I think that might be another problem people have. We think that just because it hasn’t happened to us directly that it won’t happen at all. This is such a dangerous mindset when we know the threats that can be out there. Utilize protective options like Bobcat Bobby or the emergency stations throughout campus so that if you are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, you have someone that knows where you are.

Verify the Driver on your Ride Sharing App

Apps like Uber put in place a verification process so you know who your diver is and the exact car they are in. The diver description includes their name, photo, car make and model and the license plate number. I know people get busy and don’t always take the time to confirm each of these details, but in the long run it could save your life. Being couscous is not a bad thing.

Never Walk Alone at Night

Men and women should not walk alone when it is dark outside. This is just a minor safety precaution but could have major consequences. Traveling in groups is safer and more intimidating to someone trying to approach. This keeps a threat from targeting one person and making them an easy victim. If you don’t have someone to walk with on campus use Bobcat Bobby or find a safe ride to where you need to be.

Situational Awareness

Staying out late on the square or at a party can sometimes get a bit sketching depending on those around you. Being aware of shifts in environment can be good signals that it is time to call it a night. I know it would be more fun to go out and not care about anything but knowing where your friends are and where your drink is, is important. Date rape is more likely to happen when you aren’t aware of a person being too close to your drink. Following simple rules of covering your drink in your hand and never putting it down are helpful.

I don’t want anyone reading this to automatically stress in any situation they are put in. However, this was just a reminder that there are precautions you can take to keep yourself and others safe. Students are vulnerable because of our age and the situations we put ourselves in, so being prepared is the best defense. I hope the next time you and your friends decide to go out, that you all take some of these tips and put them to good use to keep eachother safe.

Featured image by Piper Blake.

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