New college students' personal safety must be top priority

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – College is a time to explore academics, make new friends and live independently and personal safety and security should be a top priority when it comes to making choices.

During the first six weeks of classes new students are more likely to encounter safety issues because their defenses are down, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Simple safety measures will help students have a great start to their first year at Penn State and develop good habits to help keep them safe throughout their lives.

Rebecca Bywater, Threat Assessment and Community Education manager at Penn State, offers these safety tips for students:

1. Always lock your door.

“You wouldn’t leave your front door open at home, so treat your home away from home the same way,” Bywater said, emphasizing that doors should be locked whether students are inside, leaving for class or just heading to the bathroom.

In addition, don’t allow unescorted guests into residence halls. Residence halls are controlled by 24-hour electronic access. Residents are required to use student identification cards for admittance and a resident must escort every guest.

2. Know the phone number for University Police. Students need to program (814) 863-1111 into their cell phones.

3. Never walk home alone. Use Penn State’s free, dusk-to-dawn security escort service to avoid walking home alone. Just call (814) 865-WALK.

4. Limit alcohol consumption. Always be aware of what is going on, and don’t let alcohol cloud judgment.

5. Be aware of surroundings. Pay attention while walking, instead of texting or listening to an iPod. Students should call police if they notice suspicious or unusual behavior.

While these tips will help Penn State students be safe, it’s hard to foresee every potentially dangerous situation. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in four college women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. In 94 percent of cases of sexual assault of college students, the perpetrator is known to the victim, and less than 5 percent of completed or attempted rapes of college students were reported to law enforcement officials.

Susan DelPonte, a student advocacy specialist at Penn State’s Center for Women Students, said assault includes touching, humiliating or degrading someone, in person or on sites such as Facebook.

DelPonte wants more Penn Staters to feel comfortable reporting any kind of assault they experience or see. If a student is uncomfortable talking about it with the police, DelPonte urges them to seek help at the Center for Women Students, where a staff member can meet them in or out of the office to help get through the difficulties they may experience. The center is available to women and men who have been affected by incidents either on or off campus and also can provide support with housing, financial aid, academics and other student services.

Both Bywater and DelPonte warn students about the dangers of Facebook. Updating locations or statuses can clue stalkers into where students may be, or let thieves know they aren’t home. Facebook is a fun site for meeting new people, but students need to pay attention to who they friend on Facebook, what they post and what their privacy settings may reveal about them to strangers.

Bywater also reminds students to be mindful of their belongings. Don’t leave anything unattended. Popular items to steal are laptops, iPods, textbooks and wallets. Students can purchase cable locks and electronic tracking software for their laptops, available at the Computer Store on campus or at local retailers.





Last Updated April 19, 2017