A female college student, whom we’ll call Grace*, met a man while attending North Carolina State University, with whom she began a romantic relationship. For the first few years, all seemed perfect – then she moved in with him and the darkness quickly overshadowed her. Suffering through emotional, physical, and sexual abuse during the short summer of living with Dan*, one day Grace found the courage to contact a sibling while Dan was at work. Her sister arrived at the house and took Grace out of the situation.
This is just one of countless stories related to college and violence. Who can forget the incident which happened in Laramie during early October 1998 when Matthew Shephard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was killed? (Some people don’t consider his death a hate crime, but instead, one involving drugs; see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/26/the-truth-behind-americas-most-famous-gay-hate-murder-matthew-shepard) Recent fraternity hazing incidents have resulted in the death of students, including one in Pennsylvania and another in Louisiana. Violence on college and university campuses is a problem. Hazing and hate crimes, stalking and domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, even vandalism rear their ugly heads and impact students as well as communities.
Campus Crime on the Rise
Campus-related crimes increased significantly from 2014 to 2015. According to the U.S. Department of Education, offenses involving stalking and dating violence rose from 8,220 reported cases to 10,289. Hate crimes, including aggravated assaults, burglary, intimidation, vandalism and other offenses classified as hate crimes, increased those same two years, from 985 in 2014 to 1,025 in 2015. There were 32 campus-related murders reported in 2014 and 49 the next year. Aggravated assaults increased from 3,754 to 4,053, and reported rapes rose from 5,187 in 2014 to 5,871 in 2015.
According to RAINN (Rape, Assault, Incest National Network), women ages 18 to 24 are at a much higher risk for rape than other age groups, whether in college or not, and 11.2 percent of all students experience sexual assault, with the highest number being undergraduates. The organization also states, “Students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.” Sadly, only 20% of student victims report to law enforcement.
Students in elementary and secondary schools are not immune to school violence, including bullying and cyber-bullying. According to a report issued by the National Center for Educational Statistics, “about 15 percent of U.S. fourth-graders and 7 percent of U.S. eighth-graders reported experiencing bullying at least once a month.” The report’s findings also show almost 50 school-associated violent deaths occurred in fiscal year 2014, including 26 homicides and 20 suicides. Of these deaths, 12 homicides and 8 suicides “were of school-age youth.”
September is Campus Safety Awareness Month, and October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As we approach the end of one month and prepare to enter the next, consider safety in your relationships and campus life if you attend college, university, even public school such as high school or junior high. Violence can happen at any school, in any place, at any time.
How do students protect themselves from violence? Although nothing is full-proof, some safety tips include:
- Don’t walk alone on campus, especially at night. Use the buddy system or walk with a group from your class. Some campuses even provide security escorts for students who don’t feel safe.
- Stay in lighted areas as much as possible, especially if you are alone.
- Keep doors locked and windows closed, again especially at night.
- Take a self-defense class.
- Install a safety app on your phone, such as Circleof6 or BSafe.com.
- If you go to a party, use the buddy system and check in with each other.
- Never let anyone you don’t know or trust give you a drink – pour your own, and if you leave a drink to go dance or use the bathroom, get a fresh one upon your return.
- If something does happen, report it to someone in authority, including principals, campus security personnel, or the police, and do so immediately.
Regarding bullying, there are several techniques that youths can apply, including:
- Be confident and assertive.
- Stay in a group or with at least one close friend.
- Protect your privacy – don’t share photos of yourself on the Internet.
- Don’t’ share secrets.
Find more ideas about bullying prevention at https://www.verywell.com/how-kids-can-defend-themselves-against-bullies-460789
Stay safe this school year!