It’s back-to-school season for students across the nation. For many, this means heading off to college for the first time. An experience that can leave both teens and their parents nervous about staying safe on campus.
Charlie Moore, instructor and founder of Charlie Moore Training, LLC, explains how for the most part “bad guys” want one of three things — your money, your property, or you. They don’t want obtaining these things to take too long, or put them in a position where they can get caught or hurt. The best way to reduce the chances of them getting what they want is by increasing the chances of them getting what they don’t want.
You should have a plan in place ahead of time, Moore tells Parentology. “When the time comes to act, the time to prepare is over.” Moore shares his campus safety tips below.
Understanding Predatory Optics
A key component to remaining safe on campus is understanding what you look like to predators. Do you seem aware of your environment, or are you distracted by your phone or a book? Do you seem confident, or are you walking with your head down and avoiding eye contact with passersby? Being aware of how you look to someone who intends to do you harm can help you put on a more confident front that may make you seem like a less appealing target. Moore recommends keeping your chin up, taking confident strides, sitting up straight and making sure you’re aware of what’s going on around you at all times.
Keep Your Bubble
You may not know how to describe the concept of personal space to someone else, but you know how it feels when someone has invaded your “bubble.” Moore suggests maintaining your personal space by keeping people at arm’s length. If someone crosses into your bubble uninvited, make sure to say no, and show no, by verbalizing your wishes and using non-violent body language (like having your hands held out in front of you in the “stop” position).
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone
Students should travel in pairs whenever possible. This means to and from class, crossing campus, even when attending parties. If you’re at a party with your friends and they decide they’ve had enough and want to leave, it’s time for you to leave as well. And speaking of parties, Moore says it’s important not to overindulge while out. Having too much to drink can limit your situational awareness and make you appear an easier target.
Moore recommends reading books like Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear (which teaches readers how to follow their gut in dangerous situations), taking self-defense classes and carrying a self-defense tool like pepper spray or tactical pens. If you’re going the tool route, Moore says to make sure it’s easily accessible and not buried at the bottom of a book bag where it won’t help you in an emergency.
Moore advises students to keep a mental blueprint for how they will respond to various situations, and to follow these simple tips:
- Keep emergency contacts in your phone: You should have your parents information somewhere accessible in case someone else needs to contact them quickly on your behalf. You should also have other important numbers like campus security and the local police station saved, as well. In the event of an emergency, you won’t want to have to waste time looking them up.
- Lock your doors: As soon as you get into your car or your dorm room, lock your doors. Too many times we get distracted by something and forget to lock up behind ourselves, leaving an easy point of entry.
- Know secondary routes around campus and around town: If you’re going away to school somewhere new, you may not be as familiar with the area. Learn the area as best you can, making sure you’re aware of secondary routes for paths you normally take. Also, learn where campus security phones are located.
- Everyone you meet at school is a stranger: It may be easy to feel a kinship with your fellow classmates, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically trust them. They’re still strangers until you get to know them, and you should still treat them as such.
- Bring dates back to your room: If you meet someone you want to spend additional time with, consider bringing them back to your room instead of going to their place. You’ll be more familiar having visitors in your own environment, and there’s the added bonus of having your roommate nearby. If you do end up going home with someone else and find yourself in a position where you feel uncomfortable, Moore suggests excusing yourself to go to the bathroom and making a quick escape.