College is an exciting time to meet new people and go out to have fun. House parties and going to bars is part of college life. But while out with friends, follow these safety tips to keep you and your friends safe:
1. Always have a buddy system in place with someone you trust. You are automatically a less desirable target if you’re not alone.
2. Avoid alleys and other poorly lit, closed spaces that might allow an attacker the advantage of surprise.
3. A distracted person is an easy target. Put your phone away while walking. If you’re occupied with your phone, your eyes, mind, and hands are not aware of your surroundings.
4. Listen to the sounds around you. Be aware of footsteps, rustling bushes, and approaching cars.
5. Walk with purpose and project confidence. Look up, forward and keep a steady pace. Attackers are more likely to victimize someone who looks lost or timid.
Kristin Smart is an unfortunate example of what happens when friends don’t stick together until they arrive home safely. Kristin was a first-year college student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo back in 1996. She had attended a party off campus and eventually walked back to her dorm with a few friends and an unknown guy who was also at the party. The guy, Paul Flores, had creeped out people at the party, aggressively hitting on several girls. Paul insisted on walking back to campus with the group. When they got near Kristin’s dorm, the friends continued to their dorms and left her with the ‘creepy guy’. Kristin disappeared that night and has never been found.
The Your Own Backyard podcast by Chris Lambert, includes many interviews of people who knew Kristin, who knew or had encounters with the suspect Paul Flores, and others who are part of the ongoing investigation. It becomes clear throughout the podcast, that several women had unpleasant encounters with Paul Flores either when they were alone with him or even in a group setting. The case has picked up steam and as new evidence has been uncovered, there was a pre-trial hearing in September to determine that Paul Flores and his father (accessory after the fact) are both going to stand trial for Kristen’s disappearance.
The bottom line is, use the buddy system when out with friends. Don’t leave a friend alone at a party to find their own way home. Don’t walk alone at night. If you’re taking a night class, use the buddy system with someone in your class when walking to the campus parking lot. 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Remember, sticking with a friend is for their safety – and yours.