For most college students, the year is half over and a new semester will soon start. Most students are into the groove with classes, roommates, and the social scene and it can be easy to overlook a common danger for women—campus sexual assault. Thanks to the recent release of a Rolling Stone article featuring a rape on the campus of the University of Virginia, the topic has been driven front and center once again.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, an estimated 20-25% of women will experience a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their college career. Less than 5% of attempted rapes will be reported to law enforcement, and for every 1,000 women enrolled in higher education, 35 will be raped. Those numbers are significant and every woman should take steps to keep herself safe.

Despite the fact that most rapes happen to freshmen and sophomores in the first semester (September to December is most common) and usually on a Friday or Saturday night, there’s never a better time to protect yourself.

Guard against campus sexual assault

Not every woman will be able to prevent an assault. But there are a few ways you can reduce your risk:

  • Because most campus rapes happen on a date, and are more likely in his room or yours, suggest meeting in a public place.
  • Rapes also occur more in off-campus locations than on. This includes another person’s apartment or at a party. If you attend a party, take along a friend or make sure others you know will be there.
  • Don’t allow anyone to take you into a secluded place, like a bedroom.
  • Stay in control: don’t drink or use drugs.
  • Always keep your cell phone charged and keep enough money to pay for a taxi home if needed.
  • If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, leave. Just make sure you aren’t followed or walking alone.
  • Pay attention to a person’s reputation, if they display controlling behaviors, or make sexually explicit or rude statements toward you and avoid these people.
  • Never share drinks, drink from an open punch bowl, or drink from a cup that you have lost sight of.
  • Never accept a drink from anyone but a bartender when you have watched them pour it.
  • Avoid parties that charge men to enter but allow women to enter and drink for free.

If you are raped

Report it. It’s so important. If it’s at night, go to your local emergency room. If it’s during business hours, you can visit your school’s health clinic. Both locations should have specially trained nurses called SANEs (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) or physicians who are trained to collect evidence. Don’t shower or bathe before going so that you don’t wash away any evidence that could be on the outside of your body.

You may also need medications like a high dose birth control pill to prevent pregnancy or HIV prevention medications, so don’t put off this very important step. Remember that you didn’t make the choice to be raped and you didn’t do anything to deserve it.

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