Pillows Blankets Backpack Shower Caddy Hangers Rug Fan Pens Mini Fridge Twin XL Sheets
- Pepper Spray
As a sophomore in college, I have two years (although they were both shortened because of COVID) of experience with living on campus. That means I’ve created packing lists similar to the one above on at least two occasions. Both times, I got stuck on that last item with the same question replaying in my mind: Why? Why is self-defense something that is expected of college students everywhere? It’s not like this was on any of the university-provided lists; I added it myself due to the endless amount of stories that I had heard. But frankly, I was terrified. It’s the sad truth that I needed to dedicate time to worrying about which self-defense item my money would be most well-spent on. But it’s not just my sad truth, it’s a lot of young women’s.
I decided it wasn’t fair to base an article about campus safety on my experiences alone because everyone is different, so I developed a survey. It was just something quick that I sent out to those around me that were either in college or had previously been in college, asking about their overall experiences with safety. It wasn’t directly related to any school, just open to anyone who wanted to take it. I got 45 responses and honestly, I wasn’t shocked by the answers. However, it still hurt to see. When it came time to analyze the responses and calculate the percentages, I found myself having to take breaks because of the heavy feeling I just couldn’t get rid of.
The survey was anonymous, the only identifying information I collected from each participant was their gender identity and year in college. I would have liked to have a heavier male input and I acknowledge that the sample size is small, but I believe it was effective for what I wanted to discuss.
Male Responses: 10/45 : 22%
Female Responses: 35/45 : 78%
Before Going to College, Did a Parent/Older Sibling/Friend/Teacher/etc. Discuss Safety Concerns With You?
83% of women answered that it had been discussed with them in some way before they left home, compared to 50% of men. This is where my idea for this entire thing came from. Almost all of my friends that I had ever had a conversation with about sexual harassment, or even just general feelings of uneasiness, in relation to colleges, had been female. It just never seemed to come up with my male friends because they didn’t seem to be thinking about it, or have any concerns with it.
How often do you feel unsafe on campus?
40% of women expressed safety concerns leaning towards feeling unsafe every day/every night on campus, compared to 0% of men.
This question was posed on a scale of 0-5 with 0 being feeling safe every day and 5 being feeling unsafe every day. No man answered higher than 1 while the majority of females were in the 3-4 range.
Do you own any self-defense items?
60% of women said they own self-defense items, while only 10% of men did.
When it came to asking why they didn’t own any, every male response expressed in some form that they had never considered it or didn’t feel it was necessary. Females expressed the same for the most part but also had a few concerns of not knowing where to buy them or even being nervous to carry those items.
There were a few more questions, specifying feelings of safety during the night versus during the day, for example, but the results followed the same pattern. For women all over, this is our reality.
Many of the men who participated in my survey reached out to me afterward explaining that they felt guilty after taking it. They had never realized that these were things on our mind. And I don’t mean to speak for all women. There are many women who don’t actively worry about these concerns and there are many men who do. I don’t mean to generalize, I just want to point out the unfair and overwhelming majority. Obviously my intention was never to make anyone feel guilty, but it did lead to conversations that are important to have, especially with people around that might be unaware of the issues of sexual harassment on college campuses.
Again, this survey wasn’t conducted in an official way and the participation wasn’t of a scale great enough to ensure an effective representation of college campuses everywhere. However, it does reinforce the reason I decided to write this article in the first place. Packing for college shouldn’t have to include spending extra time and money on things like pepper spray and personal alarms, but for many, it does. This isn’t an issue that only affects women, but it targets them at overwhelming rates.
My hope for the future is purely to keep the conversation going and do everything in our power to make campuses safe for everyone regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, etc. I encourage everyone to have the tough conversations that we’ve been avoiding. We’re responsible for ending this problem.
I want to provide a link to a self-defense kit that includes pepper spray, an escape tool, a personal alarm, and a key knife. There are many other options all over the internet but this is the one I myself have.