In the past few weeks, you may have seen news headlines about Hannah Graham, the beautiful 18-year-old University of Virginia student who went missing from her college town of Charlottesville on September 13th. Hannah went out on that Saturday night, got separated from her friends, and was last seen looking disoriented and wandering the streets of downtown Charlottesville around 1 AM by herself. She was last heard from via a text sent to her friends saying that she did not know where she was. There is now a person of interest in her abduction, who has been linked to other cases of missing college women. Hannah’s story is sadly becoming one that sounds all too familiar. This is why, as women, we need to learn how to best protect and prepare ourselves when being on campus by ourselves or living on our own.
- Keep people updated about where you are.
Studies show that being on your phone while walking by yourself can actually be even more dangerous of a habit because it can distract you from being aware of your surroundings. However, sending a quick text to your friends or parents before you leave your current location and texting again when you get home can be a quick and easy way to ensure your safety. Free apps, like Kitestring, can perform similar tasks because it will automatically alert your emergency contacts if you don’t reach your programmed final destination in an appropriate amount of time.
- Use well-lit streets and main roads.
While it might be faster to take your favorite shortcut home, avoid it unless it is on a well-lit street with lots of cars or other pedestrians. Businesses, ATMs or large stores with obvious exterior security cameras tend to deter thefts and suspicious individuals, so try to walk as close to these buildings as you can.
- Know your resources.
You should never feel like your only option is to walk home alone. The Night Owl bus route runs all over campus on Thursday – Saturday from 10 PM to 3 AM. SAFE Walk, Night Ride, and Safe Ride are a few of the available options to drive you home Monday – Sunday from 10 PM – 7 AM.
- Stay with a guy friend or a group of girls.
You’ve heard this tip a thousand times, but try not to be alone at night. Whether this means you ask your boyfriend to drive you home after a late night at the library or studying with a big group of friends that live close to one another, try it. This might not always be possible, but try to always stay with a group of people who you trust to get you home safely.
- Trust your gut.
If you are ever in a situation where you feel uncomfortable in any way, do not doubt yourself. If crossing to the other side of the street or walking away from a suspicious guy on the street makes you feel safer, don’t be afraid to do so, even if you feel like it will make you look silly or paranoid. Also, never be afraid to call the police and request a ride or escorted walk home. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.
Hopefully, Hannah Graham will return safely home to her family and friends soon. Her case is a reminder of how cautious we need to be, while still leading the independent lives we want to. If you ever are in a situation that makes you feel unsafe, call the Department of Public Safety at (734)-763-1131 or SAFE Walk, Safe Ride, and Night Ride at (734)-647-8000. We deserve to feel safe and secure whenever and wherever we are on or off campus.
Image courtesy of UM Student Life Night Transportation page