Staying Safe: The first few months of college are exciting but surprisingly dangerous times

by | Oct 27, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Introduction to “Staying Safe” Series: Every single person deserves the right to safety and to be free of harm. We, at DOVE Center, believe full heartedly that eradicating domestic abuse and sexual violence starts with holding perpetrators accountable and that prevention-focused topics — like consent and healthy relationships — need to happen at an early age and need to happen often. However, we still live in a world where these issues exist. That’s why we have created this new blog series in hopes of addressing safety considerations in a variety of applications. If you have a safety topic you would like to see addressed in this series, please email your idea to [email protected]

I remember my first few months as a freshman on Dixie State University’s campus. It was exciting but also incredibly nerve wracking. 

Like most college students, I was worried about my class load, whether or not my professors were going to assign more homework than I could handle, the lack of sleep I was going to experience, and my social life. But it never crossed my mind that each student I walked by, especially female freshmen, could potentially experience being raped before even making it to their spring semester. 

That’s terrifying, but nobody talked about it. We need to talk about it. 

More than 50% of college sexual assaults happen during August, September, October and November, according to Business Insider. These months tend to be so dangerous because as a new freshman student, you experience more independence for the first time. You’re also meeting new people and participating in activities you may have never done before, and if you’re away from home, you’re experiencing a new environment. 

While the above aspects are true, it’s important to note that the majority of rape and sexual assault cases are not perpetrated by strangers but by someone the survivor knows. 

Rape is never the victim’s fault. While perpetrators are the only ones accountable for rape and other violence, there are tips that may help new students feel safer on campus. And if you happen to experience rape or sexual assault, there are ways for you to seek support and ways for your trusted support system to offer support and comfort.

Tips to help students feel safe during their time on college campus: 

  • Know your resources. When you experience something as traumatic as sexual assault, figuring out what to do or where to go can be overwhelming. Below is a list of local resources you can utilize and phone numbers you can save in your phone. 
  • Keep in touch with your trusted support system. This may look like having a simple conversation with your friend and letting them know to call or text you if they don’t hear from you by a certain time. It may also look like letting a friend or family member know where you are at all times and letting them know when you get home. You might consider giving a trusted friend or family member access to your location via iOS or an app like Find My Friends
  • Be aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to get distracted but being aware of your surroundings can be important in feeling safe during your time in college. This may include not walking alone or not leaving a drink unattended if you’re at a party. 

How you can help:

If you know someone who has experienced sexual assault, the way you react and respond can determine whether a survivor feels safe in reporting and seeking help.

  • If someone discloses a rape or sexual assault to you, the first thing you should do is offer support. It’s paramount that you let the survivor know what happened to them is not their fault and that what they seek to do moving forward is completely and only up to them. You may offer resources that may help them feel not alone in the process. 
  • It’s also important to encourage the survivor to seek medical attention. Rape can lead to physical injury, STI’s or unwanted pregnancy. A trauma-informed Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner can provide necessary care or treatments. Evidence — that can only be collected within five days of the assault — is collected during a sexual assault exam in case the survivor would like to report to law enforcement now or in the future. 
  • Know that DOVE Center has a team of trauma-informed rape recovery advocates who are called to the hospital to provide emotional support and assist survivors, whose crime was committed in Utah, with completing the Crime Victims Reparations application so the exam & treatment are paid for by the Utah Office for Victims of Crime. An advocate is always on call and will respond to the hospital day or night. 
  • Know what not to say. Saying things like, “I can’t believe someone would do that” or “Why did you drink at the party?” implies that you don’t believe what happened to a survivor or that you’re blaming them for what happened. Also, you should not ask for details about the assault unless that person has clearly stated they are comfortable sharing those details with you.

This blog post outlines only some of the ways you can help students who have experienced sexual assault or rape. I would encourage students to do research on their own and to not be afraid to ask questions. If you have experienced sexual assault or rape and would like to speak to an advocate at DOVE Center, please call our 24-Hour Helpline at 435-628-0458.

Written by Communications Manager Markee Pickett