• Abbie Tibbott

Friday Special: Student Safety

Welcome back to my Friday Specials! These blogs, which are published twice monthly, and focus on more personal aspects of my university experience. In light of some recent tragic attacks against women in this country, I wanted to write a more serious post about how to keep yourself safe on campus and in the surrounding community whilst you’re navigating university life.

In my opinion, my campus is a safe space, and I know that I’m privileged to say that I’ve never felt intimidated or in danger while out and about on campus for the past four years. Moving from a small town to a big town was more of an adjustment, and I have experienced my fair share of catcalling, being followed or unwelcome experiences in the town centre, on public transport and on trips to London. As a woman in a relationship, I have noticed that these instances have drastically reduced since my partner and I often go to the town centre together, which saddens me as I should not need a male chaperone to ensure my safety.

For all my readers, I wanted to point out that my university town is not alone in having these problems, and that I really hope that none of those things happen to you, but it seems inevitable at this point. Instead of moping about an issue that I can’t change in a day, I thought I’d include my top tips for staying safe at university.

My first tip is to keep open lines of communication with flat mates, course friends and your parents regarding your location. Let a friend know when you’re leaving the library, and make sure that you let someone know if you’re heading out on a date. Location apps can be useful if a group of you are committed to looking after each other, so find buddies that want to feel safe too.

When scouting out a new area, take friends with you. It’s a great way to bond in the first few weeks, but safety in numbers is important when you don’t know where the ‘bad’ bits of a town or city are. Once you’re familiar, then I’d say it’s okay to venture out alone, but be careful in bad weather or when the days are shorter.

Walking around in the dark should not be a threat to young people, but sadly there is a need to take some precautions to keep yourself safe out there. Take public transport after dark to shorten your journey and walk in well-lit areas along busy streets. Shortcuts can save you time, but no-one ever wants to meet someone unsavoury in a dark alley, so just spend the extra five minutes and walk under streetlamps. Calling a friend while you’re walking can be a great way to ease your nerves if you’re worried, and never be afraid to duck into a shop or pub if you feel like someone is following you. Since the summer, a lot of pubs and supermarkets have promoted that their establishments are a safe, warm place to wait for a taxi or a friend, so utilise these spaces if you need them.

When the nights are getting longer, you may walk to a lecture in the dark as well as return home in the dark as well. Wearing sensible clothing including a pair of shoes that you’d be comfortable to run a short distance in adds a layer of safety. Universities will have a security service, so make a note of their hotline number so you can make contact if anything on campus doesn’t feel right to you.

My final, most basic piece of advice that I swear by is: If it doesn’t feel right, leave. It’s simple but trusting your gut instinct will save you from a lot of issues that you can encounter in life. You may feel silly running along a deserted street, but if that makes you feel safer, do what feels right. Switching seats on a bus, waiting for the next tube train, or waiting out a hailstorm in a Tesco Express might feel like overkill, but will build your confidence for next time.

Reporting any issues you encounter at university will help make the situation better for everyone, so don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. Your safety is a top priority, so look after yourself out there, okay? If you’ve had a dodgy encounter, please talk to a friend, the university’s well-being service or another member of staff, and take some time to rebuild your confidence for next time.

Stay safe out there, and I’ll see you in my next blog!