More than ever, campus safety is a major factor for high school students making a decision about where to attend college. There are many risks students may have worries about, but the prevalence of sexual assaults on campus remains a top concern and colleges everywhere are looking for ways to prevent it.
College campuses are supposed to be safe, but that does not stop nearly 1 in 5 women from being sexually assaulted while in college, according to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. While some colleges are starting to acknowledge and form better ways of reporting instances of sexual assault, many colleges are looking for ways to prevent sexual assaults before they happen.
Ways Colleges Can Prevent Sexual Assaults
1. Safety Escorts. Colleges that have students moving on and off campus — especially on weekends, evenings, or other times where crime rates are higher — want to make sure that everyone gets home safely. One way that college and university safety managers have tackled this is to have campus police escorts who help students back to their dorms when called. These officials play a crucial role in ensuring students are not wandering campus alone.
This may be especially important for students who are most vulnerable, such as women or students with disabilities. The service can also be useful during social hours. If a student is separated from his or her friends, many times, the best option is to have safety escorts on alert who can help people who are lost and alone.
2. Increasing the Presence of Security Officers. While designated officials can be good when it comes to escorting students home, having an increased security presence on campus has also proven to be a crime deterrent. Security officers should be extremely vigilant in watching over residence areas on campus. 59% of sexual assaults happen in a victim’s residence, 31% residence spaces on campus, and 10% fraternity houses.
The patrol of security on campus can intervene in dangerous situations, such as instances where alcohol is being used illegally. If students spot suspicious behavior on campus, it’s important that there is security on hand to investigate. Of course, it’s important that all campus safety and security personnel receive training when it comes to handling reports of sexual assault. These situations must be handled with empathy and sensitivity – victims should feel safe coming forward, and know that the report will not result in further trauma.
3. Initiating Bystander Intervention Programs. Colleges have used some creative techniques in making people aware of the prevalence of sexual assault. The idea of teaching college students how to stand up for one another is not new. As “See something, Say something” campaigns launch across college campuses, it’s also good to take note of what works. U.S. News reported on a story regarding How Colleges are Battling Sexual Violence where an active bystander made a simple comment that may have prevented a disastrous situation. The report reads:
“The young man watched his fraternity brother at a large university lead a woman up the stairs during a house party. Something didn’t feel right. The woman was clearly intoxicated and needed help climbing. “Hey, dude, your car is getting towed!” he yelled – with the predictable result. His quick thinking, which created an opportunity for the woman’s friends to whisk her away, was inspired by training he had received a few weeks earlier.”
Many schools are investing in active bystander training to better prepare students to intervene when a situation feels suspicious or dangerous. This programming uses a variety of strategies to help students become more comfortable with speaking up, from addressing individual concerns to putting on skits put on by the student body about consent to how speaking up could stop an assault. Bystander intervention training is a key way that campus safety teams can leverage their students to help cultivate safer campus with their own ideas.
4. Mobile Apps. Nowadays, it’s unlikely that those belonging to Generation Z will leave home without their phones. A campus safety app acts as a virtual escort for the user. The tool is geared to college students and made for use on college campuses as an easy tool to call for help. Students can set a safety timer when they walk across campus at night and invite a friend to “watch over” them remotely. If the student does not turn the safety timer off, or does not reach their location, the friend then has the ability to alert authorities to a possible incident.
Some apps also allow for campus officials to store important phone numbers which easily gives a student an opportunity to call for the right campus help if they need it. In some campus instances, it’s faster to alert campus police than it is to call 9-1-1 and wait for officers. However, most campus police stations do not have an easily identifiable phone number. Scrolling for a pre-saved contact could be precious time wasted. Being able to tap a button to immediately contact campus police could prevent disastrous situations.
These are just a few small measures college or universities can take in preventing sexual assault. By having a safety escort program, increasing the presence of security or campus police, initiating bystander intervention training, and leveraging technology, campus safety teams can create a safer and well-informed student community that looks out for one another.