How to Stay Safe as an Independent Woman on Campus

It’s no secret that living alone on a college campus comes with many challenges. For many first-years it will be their first time being completely, or at least partially, independent from their families. As one of the first steps into adulthood, transitioning into college life can be incredibly scary and confusing for almost everyone, especially at a massive school like Rutgers University.

For women especially, navigating multiple large campuses and the busy streets of New Brunswick alone can feel threatening. Many social events are held outside or on the streets surrounding campus, and the dangers of traveling alone as someone who is feminine-presenting are unfortunately very real. According to the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance at Rutgers University, “Sexual Assault is the second most common violent crime committed on college campuses.”

As a single woman on campus, I myself have dealt with countless instances of harassment and unwanted advances while being alone, both at night and during the day. That’s why it’s important to take certain precautions when getting used to the geography, culture and daily life in New Brunswick. 

Traveling

One of the first rules when it comes to traveling safe is to never travel alone. If you are able to, walk with at least one or more friends when going long distances or off-campus. A group will ensure that you are safe, or at least surrounded by others who can help if anything were to happen. This basic and helpful advice however obviously can’t always be followed, and there are situations where you may find yourself alone. During the day until 3 a.m., it is important to stick to using the Rutgers bus system to travel when you can. Buses are well lit, usually crowded and in constant contact with the Rutgers University Police Department. Schedules and updated times of arrival for all buses can be found on the Rutgers app, which is free to download. If for any reason you find yourself alone at night, you can call a Walking Buddy at 732-932-7211 or use a campus emergency phone and a personal escort from the University will join you to ensure you reach your destination safely. There is also the Knight Mover Shuttle, reached at 732-932-RIDE (7433), which can immediately pick up students with a valid ID after the buses have stopped running between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m and bring you anywhere within the four main Rutgers campuses. If your destination is outside of campus, you may have to use a service like Uber or Lyft, which can be dangerous to do alone. If you must, be sure to wait inside or in a well-lit, populated area for your ride. When the car arrives, be sure to ask for the drivers name and confirm it is correct BEFORE getting in. 

Parties

Always go to parties and off-campus social events in groups, and be sure to frequently do mental or vocal head-counts throughout the night. Be very alert of who you accept drinks from and never keep your cup out of sight. As scary as it is, it is vital that you make sure your open cups are not left on tables, and try to cover them as best as you can while dancing in crowds. Having some kind of coordination or special charm with your group, like a matching color or bright accessories such as glow-stick bracelets that will help you stick together, quickly spot one another if separated, and navigate crowded parties quickly with less worry. If you do end up splitting from your group, be sure to let at least two people know where you are going and who you are with, and check in with texts until you are either reunited or safe at home.

On Campus

Even outside of traditionally threatening situations, just being alone on a busy campus can be nerve-wracking. I tend to keep a pair of headphones in, to avoid unwanted conversations, though not too loud so I can still hear what goes on around me. Never leave your room without a fully charged phone, and if you can, invest in a portable charger to avoid ever being alone without means of communication or updates on transportation. If at any time you feel unsafe, try to walk near or around other groups. It’s also important to note that campus student centers stay open until 1a.m., and libraries are open 24 hours, meaning there is always shelter on each of Rutgers’ four campuses if needed.

 

The most important safety tip of all is to stay confident, and grow to trust the Rutgers campus. It can be a scary world out there, but women are strong, and as long as we stay alert, be smart and protect each other, nothing can stop us.