The independence that comes with university life can be both exciting and daunting. Whilst the social events are a huge attraction, it’s natural to be concerned about the safety risks associated with a night out. Although women should absolutely be free to walk home alone at whatever time they wish, the threat of sexual assault can make this an extremely stressful experience. Therefore, it’s important to do as much as we possibly can to protect each other and ourselves.
The best thing you can do on a night out is travel and stay in groups. You get more time chatting and you’re significantly safer! If you find yourself alone for any reason at the end of the night don’t be afraid to call some friends to come and get you; regardless of the time, good friends will want to ensure that you’re not in any danger. Alternatively, Urban Angels run an excellent walk-home service in Exeter, and the girls at Her Campus are happy to help if you just call or message via Facebook. Never feel like a burden for prioritising your safety.
In the UK it is illegal to carry anything intended to harm another person: this includes anything from a gun or a blade to a can of pepper spray. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t legal tools available for self-defence. The most effective and important tool to carry is a rape alarm because they’re non-violent, attract attention to the situation and can scare off attackers. We Alarms provide a wide variety to choose from at affordable prices. You can also pick one up at the Estate Patrol Office on Campus (near Northcott Theatre). Spray Paint is also legal to carry as an alternative to pepper spray and makes an individual immediately identifiable to the police following the incident.
Call a Friend
If you do end up walking alone, speaking to someone on the phone can scare away potential attackers as the person on the other end of the line becomes a witness. If someone around you is behaving suspiciously then loudly describe their physical appearance to whoever’s on the phone. Even if nobody answers your call, faking a conversation can act as a deterrent.
On that note, keep your phone charged. Nimble is an ethical tech brand with a large variety of small portable chargers available to give your phone an extra boost. This ensures you are able to call a friend or the police should you encounter any issues.
Whilst walking alone may be a little boring, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Listening to music could mean that you miss signs of threatening or dangerous people, so try to listen and look around as you go.
Follow the Light
Try to take the brightest and busiest route possible to your destination. It can be tempting to take shortcuts and side routes to get home faster, especially if you’re feeling nervous about walking alone. However, well-lit areas increase your visibility to potential witnesses which can be enough to deter attackers. Exeter has some particularly poorly lit streets with sinister nicknames which are best to avoid when alone at night.
Trust No One
It may sound dramatic, but it’s impossible to know the true intentions of strangers. If someone approaches you asking for help, treat them with caution. When in a group, you are in a safer position to speak to them, or help them. Avoid doing this as an individual. If anyone asks if you’re alone or where you’re going don’t be afraid to lie; many women feel more comfortable saying their partner is just around the corner or they’re waiting for a friend who lives in the house opposite.
If you suspect you’re being followed, don’t go home; you’d be showing the person where you live which could be dangerous for future nights out. Instead, keep walking down well-lit streets until you reach a 24-hour business like a supermarket, or a busier area where you can ask someone for help.
Flight Not Fight
Regardless of whether or not you have self-defence training, the safest option when attacked is to run as fast as possible in the direction of a busy area. If you love wearing heels, consider carrying a compact pair of ballet flats in your bag for the walk home. After Party Pumps sell an affordable range of roll-up shoes that could even fit in your pockets.
Nobody likes paying for taxis on a student budget but your safety is worth the money. If you find yourself drunk and alone or if something about your situation seems suspicious, trust your gut and call a taxi. Memorise the number before you go out for speed; Apple Taxis can be reached on 01392 666666. Don’t be tempted to drive home if you’ve been drinking as this only substitutes one risk for another.
A huge part of travelling home safely starts whilst you’re still out. Try to keep track of those you’re with and never accept drinks from strangers. Also, don’t leave open drinks exposed; Nightcap sells a clever hybrid scrunchie that doubles up as a drink cover so that you can continue dancing or chatting away stress-free. Don’t let any strangers offer to walk you home, no matter how good their intentions may seem.
Whether you follow my advice or ignore every bit, it doesn’t change the fact that only one thing causes rape and that’s rapists. We can try to reduce our chances of being attacked but that doesn’t mean that victim-blaming is ever acceptable. Regardless of your actions and choices on a night out if you’ve been attacked in Exeter please call 999 or one of the following:
Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services: 01392 204174
NHS Devon, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Helpline: 0300 3034626