By Carmen Glover
Achieving a balance between having fun and keeping safe while in college can be an elusive goal for females, many of whom are leaving home for the first time and eager to learn about themselves, date and earn their college degrees on time. The challenge of meeting all those responsibilities can be overwhelming for some, often leading to unfortunate results, including compromised safety.
New York’s Junior Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been a stalwart champion for female safety, trying valiantly to garner support for bills in the U.S. Senate promoting safety in the military and on college campuses. Speaking recently at a press conference at Columbia University in New York, Gillibrand was surrounded by female college students, some of whom wept while describing being sexually assaulted on campus and getting no redress while being forced to live with the psychological scars that resulted.
“The price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted and it is simply unacceptable that going to college should increase your chance of being sexually assaulted,” Gillibrand said, her eyes blazing with anger.
Reading from a prepared statement, Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University junior, said she was “raped on the first day” of her sophomore year at the university but despite reporting the matter to the university, the student who assaulted her was not charged with a crime. She admitted that she did not report the attack to the police only to campus officials.
Responding immediately to the press conference, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger released a statement indicating that he had created a new position, vice president of student affairs, who will report directly to him and focus on issues including sexual assaults. But for Sulkowicz, nothing was done to give her justice and the creation of the new oversight position might be too little, too late, since her sense of safety and security is already profoundly shattered.
In the meantime, Gillbrand is determined to shine a bright light on the issue of sexual assaults, partly because she fell just a few votes shy of earning passage of her measure to enact legislation that would dramatically change how the issue of sexual assaults is handled in the military. While garnering 55 votes, including support from 11 Republicans, her measure failed because she did not secure the 60 votes that she needed.
Gillibrand was aiming to strip the military of its power to examine sexual assault cases internally and instead have those cases dealt with outside of the military to avoid the repercussions that many enlisted females say they face when they report sexual assaults. However, Gillibrand said that during her quest to enact the military bill the reports that she got about sexual assaults on college campuses piqued her interest.
“We began to hear about the systemic problem on college campuses,’ she said.
The numbers prompted her to shift her focus to the nation’s college campuses in an effort to effect meaningful change towards ensuring females’ safety. Gillibrand is sponsoring a bipartisan bill and is trying to get $109 million air-marked to combat sexual assaults on college campuses.
While Gillibrand battles on in the Senate, St. John’s University graduate Samara Brown, who has never been assaulted but is keenly aware that some students at her alma mater were, believes that it is important for female students to embrace certain tips that kept her and her female friends safe when they were students.
“There are different contributing factors to female students being unsafe on campus but from what I’ve seen a lot of girls in college are very eager and not very cautious. I’ve been there, very excited about the next party or concert and I think a lot of girls get caught up in the excitement of being out, having a good time and they neglect the safety part,” she said. “When that happens, they take many shots, post pictures on Instagram and let their guard down and they don’t think about safety.”
The key, Brown believes, is having a safety plan, and among the most successful measures she has found are going out in groups, having a designated driver if necessary, vetting guys through other guys before going on dates, always having your own cab fare, dressing appropriately and keeping friends aware of your whereabouts.
“It’s important to know where you are going and not end up somewhere else by chance. My friends and I always got ready at one dorm and we all left at the same time and left the party to return to our dorms at the same time,” she said, explaining that going out in groups which include a mix of males and females offers the best safety setting.
“Always have your own money so that if you have to leave you can call a cab and not have to wait for a bus when it’s late,” she cautioned. She also recommends being mindful about attire.
“When we leave the club and see how some of these girls dress in their raunchy outfits, they attract guys who invite them back to their apartments. With my group, when we drink we know who is intoxicated so that person will not drive or be left alone. If a female from our group had too much to drink we keep an eye on her and make sure she gets to her room safely,” she said.
Brown also recommends vetting guys through other guys prior to one-on-one dates. “if you are fortunate to be in a conversation with someone who knows the guy, don’t throw all your feelings out there in the conversation, use it as an opportunity to learn about the person, almost like a secret agent,” she advised. “Once you realize this is someone you want to investigate, invite him out as part of your group so that you can observe him.”
Brown, who keeps an even mixture of male and females friends, said that she avoided dating on campus during her early years in college and was very selective because she asked her male friends what they thought about various issues and learned a valuable lesson in the process: males and females have different agendas.
“Most guys in college are not looking for a serious relationship whereas a lot of girls are looking for boyfriends or even husbands which is a tricky scenario because they want different things,” she explained. Females will fare better, she said, if they focus more on their safety and learning to accept themselves and enjoy the college experience with both males and females as friends, rather than focusing on dating. As you grow into your own, you become more confident and that allows you to attract the right person and maintain your safety at the same time, she said.
As Gillibrand continues her uphill battle to keep females safe on campus, the role of college graduates in adding their voices to the conversation cannot be over-emphasized, since college students find it easier to talk to their peers. Recent graduates relate to their concerns, angst, and goals, thereby making the message easier to accept and the safety process easier to navigate. One of the most significant things all students can do to enhance their safety is to read the college security booklet thoroughly and follow the steps outlined, so that as the college experience begins, safety comes first. —OnPointPress.net.
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