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Student life

Women's safety on campus: Tips for all students

Women’s safety is so important to talk about, but it’s horrendous that it even needs to be a topic of conversation. Women’s rights activists are busy campaigning and raising awareness of crimes against women all-year round. But it’s scary to think that it takes something traumatic to hit the news for the world to realise just how important this topic is. And it’s even scarier to think about all the stories that don’t hit the news.

As student specialists, we want to keep using our platform to support you and help you feel safe. This autumn, we released the results of our first ever ‘Happiness Index’, which is a survey which measures student happiness and digs deep into their concerns. One of the most staggering insights from the final report is that 70% of female undergraduates are concerned about their personal safety on campus. 70%.

Why is women’s safety important?

Following high profile attacks, women are often given advice on how to act to keep themselves safe. Whilst we recognise that the responsibility should not sit with women to modify their behaviour to such extreme lengths to keep themselves safe, we’re also very aware of the shocking statistics surrounding violence against women reported every year.

Did you know that over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted every year in England and Wales?

Things aren’t going to change overnight.

So, whilst more needs to be done to educate the types of people capable of committing such crimes (and we still have a long way to go in raising awareness of women’s safety and reducing attacks on women), it’s important to take extra safety measures to keep as safe as possible. As a starting point, we’re bringing female students tips to keep safe on campus. As well as sharing things male students can do to help women feel safer.

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Safety tips for women

Let’s start with saying that many of these tips will likely come across as frustrating and worthy of a good eye roll. You should be able to go where you want and when you want. We know that, but that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. So, in the interest of your safety, here are some things you can do to make you feel safer around campus.

  • Buddy up with a friend

Starting with the simplest, try and avoid walking alone at night. We know – you’re independent (or introverted) and you should be able to walk around campus alone without feeling unsafe. But sometimes it’s more important to act sensibly.

Buddy with a friend if possible or use a taxi or public transport. If you have no choice, stick to well-lit roads and keep your friends/family up to date on whereabouts – keep scrolling for more tips on this!

  • Check whether your university has safety schemes in place

Certain universities throughout the UK may have schemes in place to help students get home safely – whether they’re run by the uni, students’ unions, third parties or students themselves.

For example, Cardiff University Students’ Union has a ‘Safe taxi scheme’ where if you don’t have any money, (maybe you’ve lost your purse or had your bag stolen), you can call the union’s partnered taxi firm and quote ‘Cardiff University Safe Taxi Scheme’. You’ll then be taken home safely and given a receipt with the fare. You’ll then need to visit the finance office at the union over the next few days to pay your fare.

Students in Edinburgh set up their own scheme to escort female students walking home at night. The scheme is called ‘Strut Safe’, is run by volunteers and was set up in the wake of the death of Sarah Everard earlier in 2021.

The University of Kent also has a ‘Walking taxi’ scheme where campus security can be called to accompany you safely from campus back to your student accommodation.

  • Share your location

Not with everyone! Just with a trusted friend or family member. Many women choose to share their live location with a contact when they’re away from home. There are a number of ways you can do this. For example, on WhatsApp you can choose to share your live location for a selected period of time (from 15 minutes to 8 hours).

  • Make sure your phone is charged

A full battery means you can use your phone if you need to contact anyone and your live location can be tracked. Plus you’ll be able to scroll through TikTok if you manage to catch the last bus!

  • Keep some cash in your pocket

We know – who carries cash anymore, right? But keeping some spare change is a good idea in case you lose your phone/purse and need to make a phone call or get home.

  • Keep your belongings out of sight

This one slightly contradicts our TikTok comment above… but try not to carry valuable items around with you. And if you do, try and keep them in a bag which is held across your chest, using your fingers to hold the opening.

  • Be conscious of your surroundings

Talking on the phone may sound like a good idea, but could it distract you from your surroundings? Avoid activities that may cause distractions, such as listening to music through your headphones (Adele’s new album can wait until you’re home and safe).

  • Don’t be afraid to call for help

If you feel that you are or could be in danger, don’t be afraid to call 999, ask a shopkeeper for help or even approach another woman. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Learning emergency call short cuts

It isn’t very nice to think about what you’d do if you needed to raise an emergency, but it helps to have an action plan in place just in case – especially if you’re travelling alone. Did you know that you don’t need to go through the hassle of unlocking your phone and fumbling to dial 999 if you need emergency help?

Apple emergency short cuts

If you have an Apple device, there are a few features to assist you.

iPhone emergency shortcuts

  • You can use Apple’s ‘Autocall’ feature where you press the lock button rapidly five times and this calls your local emergency services.

  • Top tip: You may have already experienced the alarm-induced panic of activating this feature accidentally! The good thing about it is that it goes into a countdown before it starts dialling 999, so it can be useful to know that you can cancel it by clicking the red phone button!

  • You can add emergency contacts so when you enter ‘SOS mode’, your phone sends your contacts your current location and updates them on changes in location.

  • Just remember to keep this updated. And if you’re living away at uni, it can be particularly helpful to add trusted uni friends as well as your parents!

  • You can also get quick access to your SOS options by pressing and holding the lock button with one of the side buttons.

It’s also worth noting that some of this functionality will depend on what model/iOS you have, so you can read more about that on the Apple website.

Apple Watch emergency shortcuts

There are similar emergency features on Apple Watches. However, if your watch doesn’t have mobile data connectivity, your iPhone will need to be nearby or connected to Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi calling set up.

If you have the Apple Watch Series 5/SE or later (with GPS and Cellular) you will also be able to call emergency services if you’re travelling in other countries or regions. Your watch will be able to send your current location to the emergency services and may also update your emergency contacts with your location (depending on where you are).

To call the emergency services from your Apple Watch, press and hold the side button until the emergency slider appears. You can either keep holding the side button or drag the slider to start the call. There will be a countdown before your watch starts calling – so don’t panic if you activate it by accident!

You can read more about Apple Watch emergency shortcuts here.

Android emergency shortcuts

Android users can also also benefit from emergency shortcuts – although this will may be slightly different depending on what device you have.

• You can start calling the emergency services quickly by pressing the power button five or more times quickly.

• If you contact the emergency services, your phone’s location can be sent as you dial/text 999.

• If you’re preparing for an emergency, you can set a message to display on your lock screen.

These are just some of the features available and you can read more about emergency functionality on Androids here.

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Women’s safety apps

As well as standard device-specific emergency features, there are also a number of apps women can download to help keep themselves safe whilst travelling alone.

This is a personal safety app which has a number of important features to help you travel safely. There are free and paid versions of the app depending on what you need.

The free version allows you to track journeys, raise alerts, record evidence, monitor meetings, add trusted contacts and more.

The paid version includes 24/7 professional alert monitoring. If you raise an alert, your app will automatically start recording (audio and video) and the evidence will send to your security team who will then contact the police on your behalf.

One scream is an app that detects a ‘panic scream’, starts a loud siren, identifies your location and then notifies your trusted emergency contacts. Don’t worry about it accidentally raising an alarm due to one of your friend’s loud shrieks though, One Scream says that the app monitors for a very specific type of panic scream!

B Safe is another personal safety app with unique features. The app is voice-activated (by key phrase - even if your phone is in a bag or pocket) and can instantly update your emergency contacts with your location. Your contacts (or ‘guardians’) will then be able to view a livestream from your phone – this is also recorded.

You can also invite guardians to follow your journey if you’re walking alone and even get your phone to call you so you can fake a phone call to help get you out of threatening situations – so you can delete those TikTok taxi conversation videos from your phone and free-up some space!

You can also set your journey time and if you don’t check in with the app during that time, the SOS alarm will sound, and your guardians will be alerted.

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Women’s safety tips for men

Whilst most people appreciate that not all men pose a threat to women, the statistics surrounding male violence against woman and girls are sadly undeniable. And when walking alone alongside strangers, how do women know who to trust?

So, following the tragic disappearance of Sarah Everard earlier this year, women took to Twitter to share things men can do to help them feel safer.

  • Avoid walking too close behind a woman

Did you know that one of the most common attacks on women is called the “bear hug”? This is where a woman is approached and grabbed from behind. Avoiding walking too close behind a woman will hopefully avoid them feeling threatened.

  • Don’t be afraid to make noise

Many attackers approach in silence to take their victim by surprise. If you do end up walking behind someone and slowing down/crossing the road isn’t an option, making it obvious you’re there can make things less intimidating. Think about calling a friend for a quick chat to make your presence known.

  • Cross the road

If you’re walking near a woman, especially in the dark, it can be hugely relieving to cross the road to show you’re not a threat (where safe, of course).

  • Offer to walk your female friends home

Feeling safe whilst walking home alone is not a privilege that most women have. But many women don’t have a choice but to walk alone, many even relying on extensive preventative measures as we touched upon above. Offering to walk with them can mean a much more relaxed (and safer) journey home.

  • Trust your instincts if you spot something not quite right

If you spot a woman who looks like she’s in an uncomfortable situation on your travels, don’t ignore it. Whilst it may not always be safe to intervene, or even pretend to know them, calling the police, reporting the situation and staying nearby will be a help.

  • Avoid walking down alleyways unless empty

It can be scary if a woman is walking down an alleyway and a man tries to approach from the other end. Waiting for her to complete the journey will avoid blocking her path and hopefully avoid making her feel uneasy.

  • Make yourself known if you’re a runner or cyclist

Being approached from behind is one thing, but being approached from behind at speed is another. If you’re running or cycling and due to overtake a woman (or anyone, in fact!), shouting “Runner!” or “Bike!” is courteous.

  • Share the knowledge

If you’re reading this, it’s incredibly positive that you’re interested in making women feel safer. However, this isn’t always the case for other men. Leading by example and encouraging friends to do the same is a big step in the right direction to make women feel safer.

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