College is great for your love life. Being able to set your own rules and curfew, away from Mom and Dad's watchful eye, can mean more freedom and time to pursue relationships. However, dating in college also comes with some specific challenges to consider when you are ready to take the leap. Since dating in college might mean living down the hall from your partner or seeing them every day in Biology class, stalking by a former partner becomes more of a risk. Here are some things to think about to keep yourself from that situation:
- Know where your info is online. You can change all of your Facebook settings to private, but your college may still be publishing a directory with your address, phone number, major and other information. Lots of colleges do this, so dig around both your campus and department websites to find out how to change yours.
- Get an idea of who to contact if you are being stalked. Your RA? Your advisor? Ask yourself, "Who do I trust the most? Who is really supportive and knowledgeable about services on campus?" Just having the idea of who you want to contact will make it easier if you are in a stalking situation.
- Know where all of the security checkpoints are at your residence. Is there a front desk and a side entrance? If you were to be stalked, being able to let someone at the front desk know the situation will keep you safe. Watch out for stairwells-- many large dorms and apartment complexes will have security clearances for the elevators, but anyone can roam from floor to floor by taking the stairs.
- Be a good neighbor. Good fences make good neighbors, as the saying goes, but in this case, good communication makes good neighbors. It'll be easier if you form a casual friendship with your suitemates or other people on your floor now, so if you are in trouble, the people who live near you can help protect you and support you. Plus, if you are in the same class with your neighbor, you can make a great walking buddy.
- Read your handbooks. Yes, the student handbook your college gives you makes great bonfire kindling, emergency paper towels, scratch paper and aerodynamic wing material for your paper airplanes. However, do yourself a favor and read this before it goes into your recycle bin. Even better, tear out the pages on stalking and harassment. Know your school's policy, so you don't have to dig through a website for it later. What accomodations can your school make as far as switching dorms, dropping classes or enforcing a protective order? Should you go to the campus police or the city police?
- Know your resources. A lot of colleges have really innovative programs for students walking home late at night. Take advantage of these. Even resources not explicitly related to harassment safety can be used. For example, many colleges employ some type of shuttle service to keep, ahem, enthusiastic partiers from driving home. There is no reason why someone in potential danger couldn't use this.
- Protect each other. Talk to your roommate(s) and neighbors about what to say if their partner or former partner calls or stops by to talk to them. Agree on what to say and don't be afraid to lie or tell your roommates to lie. Safety is first priority.
- Trust yourself. No, really, it can be that simple. If you get a bad feeling about someone, listen to it. Your intuition may be telling you something that your head cannot.
If you feel like you might be stalked in the future or are being stalked, or even just know someone who is being stalked, chat or call us. We can help you find ways to stay safe.
*Photo courtesy of KennethMoyle