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Women – how do you know what you know? And what is that?
September 2, 2014 8:11 AM   Subscribe

I have a daughter entering college, for a while I have been thinking of her leaving and about things that women have to look out for, which in general men don’t. Some examples

* Don’t put your drink down at a party; someone may put something into it

* Put your keys into your hand when walking to the car (or now you can use an app on your phone) to ensure your safety

* Walk with someone to the library (gym, dorm, etc) – don’t walk alone at night. Or call security for an escort.

Perhaps overly simplistic, and my question here is not to get into the discussion of women should not have to have these worries, but more to ask to the following:

How do you know this advice/suggestions?
And
What other things can you suggest to a young female to be aware of?

As background a bit ago I asked my daughter about ‘not putting your drink down’ and asked how do you and your friends know about this? I got a “well, you just know.” I did some internet digging for books, articles, etc. something that would discuss this topic. I came up with nothing. It seems this knowledge is loosely passed around. But not described/discussed anywhere. (Over the past year I have asked roughly 20 women of varying ages and have not received any concrete answers on the “how”.)

I am looking to collect other advice and also would be curious to know how you learned such things. I am not suggesting this is the solution, but until the culture changes I want my daughters to be aware.

To be clear I am not going to present a list and say “here ya go! Be safe…”. How this gets discussed and shared is also on my mind. It does not appear to be discussed, with young women or men.
posted by fluffycreature to Society & Culture (102 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Walk with purpose and be mindful of your surroundings.

When I moved to a large city, a friend pulled me aside and told me that I walked like I wasn't paying attention -- and I wasn't! I had a million things going in my head, and the thrum of the new environment was so thrilling.

Until BLAM, I got mugged. I was close enough to home that I could see my bedroom window. This kind of thing can happen to absolutely anyone, of course, regardless of how you walk. But I'm pretty sure I seemed more appealing to the mugger because I looked like such an easy mark.
posted by mochapickle at 8:20 AM on September 2 [7 favorites]


Never wear ear buds or be otherwise distracted if walking alone at night. There will be situations where she might find herself having to walk alone.

She should park her car in a well lit area and lock the door as soon as she gets in.

Always lock her dorm room. I remember a situation at my school where some weird guy walked into a girl's dorm room while she was sleeping.

I grew up in the city so I'm naturally wary.
posted by hazel79 at 8:23 AM on September 2 [6 favorites]


I'm sure others will be tackling the "what are the things you need to know" stuff, so I'll focus on the "How do you know this kind of thing" - most likely her college will have some kind of Self Defense Seminar offered by some group on campus, or a self-defense tips leaflet or something she can download or whatever. A campus women's group, the health office or something like that will most likely have a women-focused approach. At my own college, it was the martial arts club who lead these seminars (and a couple guys who were members insisted I come with them to a few after I was mugged sophomore year, so I could pick up some tips and also so I could be The Cautionary Tale because apparently I handled my mugging perfectly).

There will be a shit-ton of flyers advertising these kinds of events on campus, and her R.A. can also point her to other resources.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Timely: A review of a book on life advice for young women came through my FB feed today and I am going to look at this for my 20 y.o.

Also, The Gift of Fear is highly recommended by lots of folks; it talks at length about trusting your intuition/gut feelings, which women tend not to do because we feel that we should be nice.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:29 AM on September 2 [9 favorites]


I learned through partipating in Orientation and ResLife.
posted by spunweb at 8:30 AM on September 2


echoing others who will tell you to give her a copy of the gavin de becker book "the gift of fear" (you can both read it, then talk about it).

get her a little key chain bottle opener so she can open her own beer bottles at a house party.

talk to her about having a healthy relationship with alcohol, differentiating between social drinking and binge drinking/drinking to blackout.

also depending on where she lives, have a discussion about intoxicated driving and driving high and needing to have a designated driver or another way to get home (ex. campus bus, cab company contact number in her phone etc)

advise her to avoid walking around with her headphones in, or leaving her stuff sitting on a table in the library/student center unattended. lock your doors and windows at night. lock your dorm room. lock your car. (does it have a lock? lock it.)

if she ends up renting an apartment with other college kids, get her a renter's insurance policy to cover her laptop, phone and bike.

talk to her about the importance of saying no when it feels like something isn't right. it can be scary to say no, but the best way to avoid being taken advantage is being confident about your boundaries and willing to enforce them even if it feels uncomfortable and confrontational to do so. the book i mentioned earlier also has good discussion about this. women are socialized to be nice. sometimes you need to be rude in order to protect yourself. the best time to do this is before the situation gets truly dangerous, in other words, when the predator/criminal is still testing the waters to see what he can get away with and whether or not you are a good mark or bad one.
posted by zdravo at 8:30 AM on September 2 [5 favorites]


Be pushy and document your healthcare. Especially if she's been used to having a parent accompanying her or a familiar doctor up till now. Female patients routinely get their symptoms undercounted, reported pain diminished and so n. It's important for her health to be not adversarial, but definitely not polite and passive in medical settings.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:32 AM on September 2 [20 favorites]


It does not appear to be discussed.

On the internet I see this stuff discussed all the time. ALL the time. The politics of it. The women's view. The men's view. The LGBT view. Believe me, your daughter knows this stuff from the internet and it's practically impossible to give her a book that will tell her more.
posted by zadcat at 8:32 AM on September 2 [15 favorites]


I would go as far as to say do not accept a drink that you don't open or make yourself. My guy friend drank a drink that another guy bought for a female friend at a bar and was "roofied" (she was the designated driver and wasn't drinking). The drink went from bartender to her to him. So even watch your bartender. My sixteen year old daughter knows this from me but her high school also taught them about watching their drink - even if it is only a soda.

Never leave a friend behind, especially if they have been drinking.

Lock dorm room always. I had a guy climb in bed with me my first night freshmen year. Nothing happened, just a stupid drunk 18 year old boy with his first freedom but you never know.

Don't prop your dorm's entrances for anyone and if you see it propped, close it. All the safety locks/cameras etc are worthless when people do things like that (so a boyfriend/friend can come in later etc).
posted by maxg94 at 8:32 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


If you are walking alone, walk tall, stride confidently, keep a bitchy expression, and look people in the eye. Confident bitch is often less likely to be seen as a good victim. Not a guarantee, but helps.


Tell her to not only not put her drink down, but carry her drink in such a way that someone couldn't put something in it, even when she is holding it. I always carried my drink sort of overhand so that my hand/palm obstructed the opening of the glass. (God, I wish I didn't live in a world where this is necessary...)

Don't accept drinks from people. If they want to buy you a drink, great, but they can take you to the bartender and get a drink that way, from the bartender directly. If they act like you're being unreasonable be doubly suspicious of them.

Also, it isn't just at bars where things can be slipped in to your drink. One of my mother's friends had something put in her drink at a bowling alley of all places. Seriously.


Um, I may be yelled at for saying this, but some women are catty bitches and in college you may feel an instant bond with someone, but seriously, wait a long time before you confide in people. You never know where a catty backstabbing bitch may be lurking. Ask me how I know.


Seconding the "never leave a friend behind, especially if they have been drinking" thing.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:34 AM on September 2 [15 favorites]


She should always, always trust her instincts. It is totally OK to be rude if she needs to get out of an uncomfortable situation, even if she can't articulate what is off about a situation. Let her know that the real dangers for women (from rape to abusive relationships) almost always come from people you know, not strangers.

Yelling "fire" not "help" when there is a problem is another good one.

This is for everyone, but, she should always carry a $20 bill and emergency phone numbers (since no one knows numbers by heart anymore). Also, buy her a copy of The Healthy Guide to Unhealthy Living -- great because it an honest, realistic book written for adults, without the condescending tone many similar books "for young adults", and answers a lot of the questions that most people only learn through experience.

Related: give her Plan B to keep for emergencies, ask if she wants to be on birth control and cover the costs. Explain how women are more likely to get STDs and suffer complications for them, so she needs to care more than her partners might about both them and pregnancy risks.
posted by susanvance at 8:34 AM on September 2 [12 favorites]


Yes. Always always always lock your doors.

Also worth mentioning: be selective about who you spend time with, who you let into your life. In college it's really easy to get caught up in a new experience for the sake of new experiences--which is good!--but I found myself a couple of times, freshman year, doing incredibly sketchy things (for example: near midnight, walking downtown, alone, to meet friends at a fraternity house that'd lost its charter, then drinking heavily to cover my discomfort) with people I didn't know well. There is "making new friends and being open-minded," and there is "steamrolling over your intuition and discomfort to make a point," or "forcing yourself to try new things even if they seem incredibly unappealing and dangerous."

In retrospect, and in living my life since college, I know that I don't want to give a copy of my key to any random friend. I don't want to do drugs or put myself in a vulnerable position with just anyone. Same goes for dating and sex, but to a much greater degree. It cannot be overemphasized that if a guy gives you the heebie-jeebies, get the hell out and don't think too hard about it.
posted by magdalemon at 8:35 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


A lot of this was covered in my college freshman orientation. other bits were picked up on various TV shows and by word of mouth.

Always look in the back seat before you get in the car.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:36 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


If you have a car with a keychain remote lock/unlock, don't unlock it until you're right at the car. Unlocking from a distance flashes the head/parking lights and can let the bad guys know someone is walking toward that car. I don't know where I picked this up.
posted by kimberussell at 8:37 AM on September 2 [5 favorites]


Never talk on your cell phone while walking. It offers the same distraction as earbuds and makes you a target. If you are attacked on the street, yell "FIRE" instead of "I'm being attacked."

Remember though, that the vast majority of violence against women is perpetrated by people they know. Watch for signs that a guy doesn't respect boundaries. Don't be alone in a room with a man. To be less paranoid, make that men who have demonstrated disrespect for boundaries/women/you in particular.

Police your clothing/posture/joke telling/alcohol consumption/company. If you are wearing something short or tight or low cut, you will "invite" dangerous attention. If you look "scared" or vulnerable, people will take advantage. If you tell raunchy jokes men will think you want it. If you get drunk, people will ask "what were you thinking." If you are alone in a room with only men, you will not be permitted to be angry or even surprised if the group chooses to fondle or rape you, and then the photos and videos are spread among their social circle.

If a guy seems creepy, and asks for your number, it's safer to give him a fake one than the real one.

Feel free to reject men on a gut feeling, no matter how great they look "on paper" or how hot they are or how smooth they talk. Don't bother explaining, it's dangerous.

I learned these things from the RA gatherings in the dorm, from high school, from persistent media coverage in the mid and late 90s. From other women, some who were self righteously explaining how they had managed to avoid being assaulted, and others who mournfully planned what they would do differently "next time," because there would always be a next time. I learned these things from the casual pronouncements that men make when they hear news of a woman assaulted, even a personal anecdote. From Steubenville, I learned that you cannot trust the police. From the recent coverage of college assaults, I learned that colleges do not have female students' best interests in mind when making law enforcement decisions.

Tell her that she can always call you for judgment free advice or help. If your college is close enough that you could go get her or help her in an emergency (however she defines that), offer that.
posted by bilabial at 8:38 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


Dicking around with your cellphone while walking at night. I constantly see people texting or checking facebook when I'm walking the dog before bed. It's like a bright blue beacon that advertises "I'm not paying attention to my surroundings" along with "I have an expensive piece of consumer electronics that you might care to steal".
posted by Ham Snadwich at 8:41 AM on September 2 [7 favorites]


Oh. Also, never park next to a sketchy looking van. If you come back to your car and a sketchy looking van is parked nearby, walk as far around it as you can.

This gem came from my late teens and was told to me by other women my age who had just gotten their first cars.
posted by bilabial at 8:42 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Oh! Something I heard just recently (from my grandmother, fwiw): If your car is parked close to where you sleep, keep your keys by your bed. If anyone tries to get into your room during the night, hit the panic button as an alarm and the intruder will likely be scared off.
posted by magdalemon at 8:42 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


How do you know this advice/suggestions?

Personally, I learned most of these via horror stories from female friends who learned them too late. :(

One I learned via my own bad experience: just like alcohol can be roofied, marijuana can be laced with blackout drugs like PCP for party rape purposes.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:47 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


Honestly, I walked (and walk) alone all over the place by night. I have never had a problem, even when I was young and wore dresses and heels every single day. I think that in many parts of the country (basically, outside cities with New York levels of harassment culture) "know where you are going and be aware of your surroundings" is going to be more useful advice for getting around than "don't walk alone, especially at night". Very often you have to walk alone, or you want to walk alone, and it's just not reasonable to instill the feeling that the world is waiting to pounce.

Also, a lot depends on where your daughter is going to school. She should know her campus, in particular. Walking alone on the small liberal arts campus I attended as an undergrad or walking into town at night was no big deal. Walking on the large campus I attended after undergrad was fine as long as you stayed away from frat row, the bars and the big student neighborhood near them.

And she should figure out what "at night" means for her - a 9pm crowd/street is going to be different from a 2am crowd/street. What is totally safe at 10pm might be pretty hinky at 2am.

Biking changes things up hugely - you can certainly experience street harassment on a bike, but you're going much, much faster and people's opportunities to mess with you are far fewer. I really think that biking cut down on my negative city experiences a lot - people sometimes yell stuff, but really, when you're a lot more mobile it's a lot less scary. If your daughter is going to be in a bike-friendly place, she may be able to try out the city bikes so widely available now and see how she likes it.

Things I learned that were practical and not scary:

- it is very useful to have a little kit with a leatherman pocket tool, a mini LED light, bandages, mini-scissors, sewing stuff, antiseptic, a clean bandana, tweezers and a variety of basic medications - plus you will astonish your friends, who will have none of these things. Don't get the dainty little premade "lady" kits (unless you can't carry anything more substantial). I have always used the pliers and screwdriver bits from the leatherman far more than anything else.

- if the weather is at all changeable where you are and you're going out for the day, carry a mini umbrella and/or a cardigan. When I was in college, I spent far too many days damp or cold because I got rained on or the weather changed. Again, after you acquire the umbrella you will dazzle your friends.

-make sure your shoes and winter coat are up to the task. Neither need be ugly, but you may well find yourself going on unexpected errands and adventures, and you may end up very cold or footsore.
posted by Frowner at 8:49 AM on September 2 [18 favorites]


I think girls tend to know this stuff because there's always that one friend who's the safety equivalent of a hypochondriac - someone who for whatever reason (often valid reason, I don't downplay that) is a font of information and is eager to tell their friends that they're going to get mugged, get drugged, get raped, get taken advantage of, get scammed, get scared, etc. There's always someone who's watched a few too many after-school specials (and it turns up with some frequency as a plot point on regular TV shows involving high school or college students), and gotten totally spooked and read all the wikipedia links about roofies, and believes that every single story they've ever heard is about to happen to them. I'd hate to accidentally encourage a daughter to be that person, but I think a lot of hearsay information comes from having such a person in your life.
posted by aimedwander at 8:49 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


If a guy seems creepy, and asks for your number, it's safer to give him a fake one than the real one.

Oh my god, yes, give a fake number. It will get them off your case much more quickly.



And Jesus Christ, keep your door locked. Always. Yes, it may result in some lock-out fees, but a locked door is an important thing to have. And don't forget about your windows. I lived on the 3rd floor of my residence and left my window open once. I had a friend who was a rock climber who scaled the wall of our building and came in through my window. He was being funny and I watched him while he climbed so it was all good, but my point is that being off of ground level isn't a guarantee of window security.


And don't be afraid to get loud and make things awkward. This is a very powerful weapon. If someone won't leave you (or one of your friends) alone, make it awkward, speak very loudly, draw attention to yourself. I have been known to say uncomfortable taboo things just to draw even more attention to myself. (ie. loudly saying the names of some sexually transmitted diseases seems to get people's attention, especially if you name those sexually transmitted diseases in a context suggesting that person carries them)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:54 AM on September 2 [11 favorites]


Be careful and trust your instincts - but if anything happens it isn't your fault.

Also, I would suggest that you tell her that if she's stranded anywhere and feels like she's in danger she can call you at any time for money or other assistance.
posted by Laura_J at 8:55 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


Where I learned about this stuff: My parents. My parents' friends. My friends. TV. Movies. School. The internet.

It's like asking "when did you learn about WWII" or "when did you learn about cheesecake" or something. It's just a thing that you know and have known seemingly forever and you don't really think about it all that much. It just is.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:56 AM on September 2 [6 favorites]


They gave the parents a pretty good overview of this stuff when we dropped our daughter off a couple of weeks ago. I assume that the kids got the same message from the school, as they appear to be taking this stuff much more seriously than when I was in college.
posted by COD at 8:57 AM on September 2


How do you know this advice/suggestions?

I've watched as women all over the world, myself included, have been repeatedly pilloried and blamed for our own victimization, especially when said victimization comes at the hands of men. Just a handful of years as a girl was all it took for me to understand the fact that if you're a woman and a man does something terrible to you -- assaults you, rapes you, harasses you, drugs you, even straight-up murders you -- you're going to be blamed for what he did no matter what.

To live as a woman is to be perpetually marked; it means you will have your choices examined and your motivations called into question in ways that unmarked people (men) cannot even imagine. Our bodies are treated like public property and legislated accordingly. It's a bizarre and disassociative experience. But we're taught, by politicians and magazines and television and our fellow human beings, to internalize the notion that it's Just The Way It Is.

What other things can you suggest to a young female to be aware of?

Tell her that she will never be aware enough, detached enough, demure enough, boisterous enough, sober enough, drunk enough, fearless enough, compliant enough, covered enough, bare enough, or smart enough to prevent her from being blamed for anything another person does to her. Rather than letting this knowledge crush or defeat her, suggest that people do this because they are scared of what women could accomplish if we weren't constantly being picked apart, castigated, assaulted, and killed just for existing.

Tell her that she doesn't have to smile, speak, or take off her headphones unless she damn well pleases. Tell her that 'no' is the most important word. Teach her to understand that her own boundaries are the bottom line and that no one has the right to infringe on them. Tell her that no one is entitled to her time, attention, or affection, no matter how much they whine or cajole or beg for it, even if they threaten violence in an attempt to extract it. Tell her to watch out for her sisters, literal and otherwise. Tell her that if something bad happens to her, other people will leap to pick apart her story and figure out what she did wrong, but you will always stand by her side to serve as her voice when she feels scared or silenced.

Oh, and tell her to always keep a couple of extra tampons or pads in her purse. Handing one underneath the stall door to a sister in need is a mitzvah.
posted by divined by radio at 8:58 AM on September 2 [110 favorites]


First, I would ask her to tell you what she already does; presumably she already drives and goes out. This allows you not to repeat stuff she knows, and also to find things she might be missing.

Have her memorize your phone number (instead of just keep it in her phone) so she can call you from anywhere even if she has to use a different phone.

Most of what I learned (pre-Internet) was from other women or articles in women's magazines. Also probably from freshman orientation, but I don't remember.

In general, fraternity parties are a place to be on alert, or really, avoid. There's lots of people, lots of booze, and a culture that allows and encourages bad things to happen. They are also often places with code violations and generally unsafe. I avoided them mostly in college; too much stress, too many other places to have a better time. She should try to do her drinking with trusted friends and not at random parties with random people she doesn't know.

It is also totally ok to bring a flask with you to a party and drink from it instead of whatever nasty cheap stuff is probably being served, to avoid roofies. Just say "I'm picky about my whiskey" or whatever. Same for marijuana, as mentioned upthread. If she is in a state where it's legal, she should be buying her own. If she is in a place where it's not, well, she's taking a different set of chances, but at the very least, buy from someone who has sold safe stuff before and can be vouched for.

Tell her to always listen to her creep-dar and get away from/avoid people who give it off. The worst that can happen in that case is some dude gets his feelings hurt because he gave off the wrong vibe. That is not even comparable to the worst that can happen if she ends up with a true bad actor. And any dude who makes her feel bad for being safe is already a jerk.
posted by emjaybee at 8:58 AM on September 2 [5 favorites]


Most winter jackets, especially non-parka ones, are dark colours -- black, gray, navy blue. Don't buy those. Go out of your way to get a brightly coloured winter jacket. It's dark in winter and it's dark early. A black jacket will get you hit by a car.

If she drives, in winter, watch out for pedestrians in black jackets. You won't see them til the last moment.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:59 AM on September 2 [6 favorites]


"Bag-Keys-Phone-Lock" is something to make a habit. Every time you leave a room, your car, or even a public space that you might not be responsible for locking up, touch each item: Bag, keys, phone, and then either double-check that the door you're leaving is locked (if that's your responsibility) OR that you are leaving the area
-at least as clean as you found it (you've got all your stuff and you're not a littering jerk)
-safe (not on fire, not leaving another person alone in there, no hazards or issues that need to be reported to maintenance)
-and aware of your surroundings both behind and in front of you.

[Citation: experience. I still do it.]

I like PuppetMcSockerson's advice to be willing to be loud. In the self-defense class my mom made me take in high school, we were taught to say "fire" instead of "help" because of bystander effect. More recently I have heard the advice to say "I DON'T KNOW YOU" so people can't be all oh I don't want to interfere in someone's domestic dispute.

But also: call out bullshit as bullshit when you see it. Whether it's someone being racist or bullying or unsafe behavior or someone trying to manipulate you into doing something you don't want to, SAY SOMETHING. Don't be a fraidy girl who needs to be nice to everyone at the potential expense of your own life or someone else's. Be mean when it's time to be mean. Have boundaries and speak up when something is not okay. That includes asking for help when you need it, too.

My biggest mistakes at that age all boiled down to dumbshittery, basically believing nothing bad was ever going to happen to me and therefore I could do things I knew were bad or illegal or stupid or mean because there wouldn't be consequences and because it was harder to buck what everyone else was doing than to just go along. I don't know how you teach a kid not to be a dumbshit, at least not without killing her spirit. It seems like the safest way to make a girl safer as a young woman is general leadership skills. I mean, those girls were definitely instigators of some of my best adventures, but they also had pretty sharp bullshit detectors that kept us out of too much trouble.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:04 AM on September 2 [5 favorites]


Teach her to trust her instincts. Tell her it's OK to say a polite but firm no, people that do not respect that do not respect her. It is OK to make a scene, it is OK to leave. Always be able to get home safely under your own steam. If you can't afford taxi fare home, you can't afford to go out. Listen to your instincts, if you are wondering if something is a dodgy situation, chances are it is, and if it isn't better safe than sorry.
posted by wwax at 9:09 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


A woman in America has the right to go anywhere that men can go. Walk with pride and confidence. Make eye contact with everyone. Fearful women look like victims. Don't look like a victim. If you feel unsafe somewhere, find the biggest, scariest looking man you can and ask for his help. Never show fear, always show charm and grace. It is possible to dress modestly while still looking feminine. The guys that you attract while wearing cheap clothes and heavy makeup will never make you happy. Never give out your last name or address to anyone, for any reason, until you know them for several weeks and have met at least two of their friends. A guy without friends isn't romantic and misunderstood, he's creepy and should be avoided. Always be the driver and always leave before last call. Always act as if your grandmother was with you.
posted by myselfasme at 9:10 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


Also, I would suggest that you tell her that if she's stranded anywhere and feels like she's in danger she can call you at any time for money or other assistance.

Or just in any sort of trouble or wants a listening ear with no judgment. But do this only if you can truly offer it. (It's hard! She's your baby.)

College is a time where she'll learn a lot about herself, her boundaries, how she wants to be treated as a friend and as a colleague and in romantic relationships. She'll need to make mistakes. I love my mom dearly and think she's an amazing person, but I never felt like I could talk to her about things, and that could have made some very difficult things so much easier.
posted by mochapickle at 9:13 AM on September 2


Oh, always bring spare gloves in the winter - pick up, at minimum, a couple of the $1 stretchy pairs from Target. For one thing, you can share them and for another you never know when you'll need them.

(I think that some of this "make sure your outerwear is really useful" stuff is useful for people socialized female - it's easy to grow up feeling used to being uncomfortable because a lot of women's clothes are uncomfortable, be used to evaluating clothes for their appearance rather than their durability and then be gobsmacked by the switch from "I am uncomfortable" to "I am freezing and I have to walk two miles". I once wrapped my head in a pair of pajama bottoms because I had a two mile nighttime walk in the early winter without a hat and my ears hurt so much from the wind. This does not need to be you - bring a hat and gloves. If your daughter hates - as I hate - puffy practical winter coats, she may find that lining a more attractive coat with a heavy cardigan/fleece cardigan/hoodie solves the problem.)
posted by Frowner at 9:17 AM on September 2 [3 favorites]


The advice to make eye contact with everyone seems WAY OFF, unless she's going to college in a small town. If she's going to school in a city, she needs to learn how to walk confidently, put that bitch face on, and avoid eye contact with everyone ever. (This is different than avoiding eye contact, it's about an icy stare that glides around in space so you never meet anyone's eyes but they know that you know that they're there.) That's what you do in the city. Making eye contact all over the place marks you as a rube and easy target.

Honestly, she probably knows all this stuff already and she knows it because she's a woman in this world.
posted by purple_bird at 9:21 AM on September 2 [15 favorites]


Learning to say no when she is uncomfortable/unhappy/getting unwanted attention/being taken advantage of. Forcefully, without doubt, and persistently. This is incredibly tough for many people, but is incredibly valuable. There are few things that feel as awful as feeling like someone isn't taking you seriously. This can include:
- Shouting "No!" or "Stay Back!" if there is someone who makes you uncomfortable coming up to you
- Not being afraid to make a scene. (I was once groped on the subway - when I shouted "No, stop!", other passengers came to my help and one called the transit police. At the time, I just felt embarrassed for having caused a scene. Today, I think it was good)
- Not using polite phrasing when you are "trying to be nice" to someone. It is better to tell a guy that you are not just not interested, than try to be vague and hope they get it.
- Standing up for yourself when someone tries to take credit for your work. (This often seems to happen to women then may)

This is something she has to practice every day - it slowly gets easier, but never becomes just easy.
posted by troytroy at 9:24 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Oh. Purses! Ways to not get your purse snatched.

Carry cross body so it's harder to get off you and not an attractive target. As a bonus, if you get choked with your purse strap, you'll be blamed for giving your assailant a tool in your demise.

Clutch it to your side or in front of you.

Carry it close up under your armpit, not on a long swinging strap.

Never carry a purse, only carry what fits in your pockets. (Ha, useless lady pockets. Ask your friends for tampons and rely on a man to carry your phone. Oh. Wait.)

As mentioned above, keep your keys in your hand, so that you can strike an attacker with a sharp pointy object.

Carry mace, so that you can blind a mugger. But if you use it and he escalates, it will be your fault for making your attacker angry or scared.

Cross to the other side of the street if you hear footsteps behind you or see someone approaching who looks "sketchy." Decide in the pitch dark who looks sketchy. Or don't go out in the dark with anything of value. Which circles around back to rape. See also: Wanda Sykes Detachable Pussy (Trigger warning, she is making rape jokes some of which I find funny, but the last two minutes or so are a little outside my comfort.)
posted by bilabial at 9:32 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


As for the "how," I learned these types of things two ways: (1) From friends who learned them the hard way, and (2) Learning it the hard way myself.
posted by sockermom at 9:33 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


It is perfectly 100% OK to NOT get on an elevator with a sole male occupant or occupants that otherwise set off the heebies. Don't get on; if it feels weird and rude, say "Sorry, I'm going [in the opposite direction]."

When getting into the car, lock the doors, start the engine, drive away. No checking phones, rummaging for lip gloss, whatever.

On a more personal level, dump guys who aren't interested in her as a person, don't go on pity dates, don't date guys who try to sleep with her roommate, dump friends who make her feel bad about herself, do the homework on time.
posted by mibo at 9:35 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Add the numbers you need drunk when you're sober. For example: local cab companies, the bus arrival time number, campus police, urgent care...

I learned this by having to 411 cab companies all the time
posted by spunweb at 9:52 AM on September 2 [3 favorites]


The Seattle newspaper The Stranger has a "back to school guide" every year that includes stuff like this as well as consent issues, drug safety (they assume people are going to take drugs but want them to be safe), and LGBT concerns. (The link is to last year's but if you Google "Stranger back to school guide" you can find the old ones.)
posted by matildaben at 9:54 AM on September 2 [4 favorites]


It would also be good for her to just be mindful of how much she's drinking (which I know can be tricky).

Spiking drinks with drugs actually isn't nearly as common as people think. What is common is just drinking a lot more than you intended, whether by losing track yourself or by someone else being pushy about serving you drinks to incapacitate you. Not that she shouldn't be cautious about putting down/covering her drink, just that it's not enough to do that alone.

Also don't assume that just because someone's your friend or acquaintance that they're perfectly "safe." You're much more likely to be taken advantage of or attacked by someone you know than a stranger in a bar or on the street.

And if you are going out somewhere, it's always good to tell somebody (like a friend, roommate etc.) details like where you're going and when you plan to be back.

As for how I found any of this out, most of it is just from stuff like word of mouth and movies/TV etc. I also majored in Criminal Justice for a while and we went over a lot of stuff about crime statistics that helped.
posted by Kimmalah at 9:54 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Know the street address of your dorm (if she lives in a dorm) and be able to direct an emergency vehicle to it, if necessary. I had a friend in college who developed a seizure disorder, and we found ourselves frequently calling ambulances--getting them from the front entrance of our small college back to the dorm where she lived (and reminding them to turn lights and sirens off so as not to worsen the seizures) was essential. Also, in case she knows anyone who is sexually assaulted/raped who thinks she may want to pursue charges, it's a *very* good idea to get the "real" police, as opposed to the campus police, involved first. Campus police work for the college, and colleges cover up sex crimes so they don't get bad reputations. Town/city police departments don't have this motivation.
posted by epj at 10:01 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


This is discussed frequently on college campuses with both women and men. It is good that you're thinking about these things but I promise your daughter will get the info she needs one way or another, either by word of mouth via classmates or RAs or sorority sisters, or through painful experience. My knowledge comes mostly from the latter because even with the best prep you can't always discern the nuances that come with shady situations. Such is life.

My advice would be:

People (romantic partners especially) are not worth your time or energy if they want a great deal from you but aren't willing to give an equal amount back in return. People who only want to tell you about themselves but shut you down when you try to tell them about you are similarly lousy. Don't settle for friends, boyfriends/partners, or classes that don't give you what you need.

You can do everything right, and you can still get raped. It's never your fault. Ever. Don't let anyone tell you it is. If it does happen, try to get a rape kit as soon as possible. I didn't, and I regret it.

Actions and choices made out of loneliness or desperation are usually the ones you'll regret, too. Don't enter into relationships when you're lonely because you usually can't tell if you actually like the other person (or if they like, respect, and value you, too).

Being wanted or desired is not the same thing as being respected or valued.

If possible, forgo your membership in sororities and instead get an internship every spring, all four years. Work experience in your chosen field pays off more than being in a sorority. Ask me how I know.

The only person you can control is you. You cannot truly control what other people think of or feel about you, so don't try. All you can aim for is influence.

Being assertive does not make you a bitch. Saying no when you need to say no does not make you a bitch, either. Removing yourself from any situation that makes you uncomfortable is okay. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not to be trusted. You deserve to be treated with respect.

If you are applying for a job, an award, or some other big thing, don't tell everyone about it. Keep it mostly a secret until it's a sure thing. People have a tendency to interfere when they know too much about you.

Do your best in school, but don't let it define you. You have made it this far. You will make it through everything else that comes your way.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:02 AM on September 2 [12 favorites]


All of the personal safety measures mentioned so far are great, but it is also important to remind your daughter that most incidences of rape in general are not stranger-in-an-alley rape, they are date rape and/or acquaintance rape, at parties, in dorms, or just hanging out at bars with friends. It's a gross realization to have that statistically speaking, at least 1-2 guys she will encounter in her friends circle will have already had sex with someone who did not or was unable to consent, but it is so important to remember.

Remind her that it is okay to set physical boundaries with guys who are in her friends circle but who make her feel uncomfortable nevertheless. Remind her that she is always, always better off without friends who will try to make her feel bad for rejecting a friends circle guy whose attentions make her uncomfortable.
posted by elizardbits at 10:04 AM on September 2 [6 favorites]


Keep a pen handy rather than keys because it won't matter if a pen is lost in a scuffle.

If her roommate (s) are sexually active and they're in a dorm room with no privacy, tell roomie (s) directly if she's not comfortable with this. If she gets sexiled, remember that it's her space too.I was in a room like this freshman year and the girl ignored my request not to have anyone in after 10pm. I wasn't deliberately sexiled; she didn't care whether or not I heard her. She later contracted scabies and everyone thought she'd transmitted the crabs.
posted by brujita at 10:05 AM on September 2


Use critical thinking skills to evaluate and protect against predatory authority figures and pseudo-authority figures (R.A.s, T.A.s, grad student advisors, etc.).

Some young women may be deferential to people they view as authority figures, even if from an outside adult perspective, an R.A./upperclassman aide has no real power.

Just because someone is older than you, a grad student, a "health aide," your advisor, your R.A. doesn't mean they're a god or have your best interests at heart.

Evaluate them as a person outside of their role. Are they acting like other people in their position do? Would their behavior likely be approved if their supervisor knew about it? Do they interact with you in public spaces and appropriate places or do they try to get you alone or in singled out spaces?

You never have to do what they say or suggest if it has to do with your body or your social life. If you're not sure, talk it over with friends or other trusted allies BEFORE you accept an invitation or go to an isolated space.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:06 AM on September 2 [8 favorites]


I learned most of this stuff because my dad is super paranoid and drilled it into me!

A lot of newer dorms automatically lock and only open with a cardswipe now, but if she has an older style lock then *yes* lock your doors. My dorm had older locks and stuff got stolen all the time, especially when people were sleeping.

When I was a freshman they gave us little cards with three phone numbers: campus police, taxi company, and the lawyer that the school kept on retainer.

Also I agree that in the age of cell phones, one should always memorize important numbers in case you are separated from your phone.
posted by radioamy at 10:06 AM on September 2


What is common is just drinking a lot more than you intended, whether by losing track yourself or by someone else being pushy about serving you drinks to incapacitate you.

Especially true of overly sweet, fruity drinks that mask the taste of alcohol.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:06 AM on September 2 [5 favorites]


Condoms - buy and carry your own, to make sure they're not tampered with and so there's no excuse to go without. Even if you're game to play, some guys will push the limits in the heat of the moment.
posted by lizbunny at 10:11 AM on September 2 [6 favorites]


Re-reading your question, I'm a little confused about "It does not appear to be discussed, with young women or men." I don't mean to scold, but as a parent it's your job to discuss this with your child and not just hope that she picks it up somewhere else. My parents enforced a lot of these things with me from a young age. For example dad always told me not to go down empty stairwells (like in an office building), and that it's okay to not get in an elevator with someone who made me uncomfortable. I
posted by radioamy at 10:14 AM on September 2


This may sound weird in light of all the excellent advice above, but along the lines of body language: tell her "don't be a head-tilter."
I think you know what I mean. That pseudo-beguiling head-tilt that some women do to indicate their cuteness, vulnerability, girlishness, what-have-you. Sometimes you see photos of female C.E.O.s in the business pages with their head passively tilted, so as to mitigate their power, I guess.
Head-tilting (and while we're at it, up-talk) are indicators of a passive "pleaser." If I were of a predatory nature, I would be on the lookout for such behaviors.
Walk strong. Look fierce. Don't tilt.
posted by BostonTerrier at 10:27 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


@radioamy - "but as a parent it's your job to discuss this with your child" ... of course, I would agree. But my post and request is to get to the "this" in your statement.

Secondly, I do not see it being discussed - her group of friends in high school didn't have an answer, there were no classes/seminars on this at her high school and I began to wonder about a collective message that would move the conversation forward.

This has been a helpful thread.
posted by fluffycreature at 10:30 AM on September 2


Don't live on the ground floor; only live on the first floor if you really have no choice. Ask me how I found out!

Someone talked about healthy relationships with alcohol. Also have a healthy relationship with food and with (romantic / sexual / domestic) partners.
posted by whatzit at 10:38 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Especially if she moves in feminist circles this will be a regular topic of discussion (if only to complain about how unfair it is women have to worry about this stuff). On my very first day of school somebody told me which frats were the dangerous ones, so stuff'll get passed on through the general network of women she knows.

Also nthing that RAs will talk about this at meetings. They'll probably be vaguer than her friends but it'll come up.
posted by clarinet at 10:38 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


I was taught these messages by my sister. My older sister was engaged in Riot Grrrl communities and gave me advice for dealing with street harassment, as well as how to protect myself ("Eyes knees groan throat!") This was certainly written down, in songs and zines and flyers. Just because you haven't seen them doesn't mean they've never been there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:44 AM on September 2


Add a good loud whistle to your keychain.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:44 AM on September 2


Another thought: she should know about communication as a women. How to be assertive, how to express confidence, how to "sell herself." Women often learn to be modest about their accomplishments, hedge their desires with weak words, and otherwise undermine their own success. This is relevant to the question of safety that dominates this thread, but is important in day-to-day academic and professional life.
posted by whatzit at 10:45 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


It is better to be embarrassed than to be hurt. If it's late or sketchy and she doesn't want to walk to her car alone, there are generally security guards or other people she can trust in the building she's leaving who she can ask "Hey, can you walk me there?". The hardest part is getting over the this is embarrassing / what if he says no / he's busy and won't want to be interrupted Nice Girl reasons why it's better to just go alone than to disturb someone.
posted by Mchelly at 10:46 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Have her memorize your phone number (instead of just keep it in her phone) so she can call you from anywhere even if she has to use a different phone.

This is especially important if she gets arrested, and she should memorize at least one land line number, because she won't have access to her phone to look up the number, and some cell providers don't make it easy to accept collect calls.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 10:47 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Don't live on the ground floor; only live on the first floor if you really have no choice. Ask me how I found out!

Why is this? If she's living in a dorm, she likely won't have a choice about where she lives until the second semester anyway and only during a certain period. Or that's how it worked at my colleges.

Seconding the "lock your door" thing. It seems like such a common sense thing but I've known so many people who have had break-ins because it just didn't occur to them that they would need to lock up.
posted by Kimmalah at 10:56 AM on September 2


My mother grew up in Germany during WW2 and its aftermath. My father, 12 years older than her, fought in the front lines of both WW2 and Vietnam and spent 26.5 years in the army, most of it overseas (so in unfamiliar cultures and environments).

So in addition to the usual answers other people are giving of "heard it from friends, read it, discussed it, whatever," I simply grew up in an environment that acknowledged that ALL people are potentially dangerous to us, whether they seem to be or not, whether they are "nice" or not, whether they even intend to be or not. The world is a dangerous place and if you live in a "civilized" environment -- remember, the word basically just means citified, ie not overly rural -- then the single biggest predator you deal with is other human beings. Forget that fact at your peril.

So I just grew up constantly hearing really cynical things like "How do you know a politician is lying? Because his lips are moving." and my father so habitually went around checking and locking every door and window in the house that my mother had to carry her keys in her pocket to go turn the water on or off when watering the lawn because he would lock her out of the house in the brief time she was outside. I spent my entire childhood hearing "Your father is paranoid because he fought in two wars." A few years ago, I finally told my mother she had that backwards: My oldest son is also paranoid and has never been in a war zone but has some genes from grandpa. So I think dad lived through two wars because he is paranoid, not the other way around.

As others have said above, yes, there can be some differences between something done at 10am vs 2am, but I think putting too much emphasis on situations that are dangerous and situations that are supposedly safe misses this core detail that other people, even if their intent is not malicious, do not have your best interest at heart. They often have other goals, which may or may not be actively harmful to you but the odds are relatively poor that it really aligns with your best interest, or they have ideas about what is best for you that are rooted in some kind of generic formula and do not really apply all that well to your specific situation.

So while it is useful to keep in mind that when it is late at night, the combination of darkness and lack of witnesses increases the danger, I think it is a mistake to put too much emphasis on that aspect of it because one of the things a lot of people do is assume they are safe if it is, say, broad daylight and other people are around -- ie, if it is not late at night, dark in a deserted spot, if it is the opposite of that dangerous situation, then, obviously You Are Safe! Some situational factors certainly increase your risk, but if you just keep in mind that all people are potentially dangerous to you, whether they mean to be or not, you are much more likely to stay safe and not stupidly let your guard down "because he seemed nice...because it was broad daylight...because he was SPIFFY TITLE...because she and I were FRIENDs...etc"
posted by Michele in California at 10:56 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Walk in the middle of the pavement, as then if someone jumps out from a garden or alleyway you can move to the road. Or if a car pulls up you can move the other way. Also walk facing on coming traffic so you can see all vehicles approaching.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 11:02 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Can I differ a bit on earbuds? Earbuds that are turned down low / turned off are a great lower-confrontation way to get rid of creeps and weirdos that swarm pretty girls with that "new in town" look or feel to them. Just point to your ears, shake your head, and keep moving / return attention to your book or smartphone.

Also -- don't be afraid to do things that are mainly full of guys. STEM classes, obviously, but also a lot of extracurriculars can be very male dominated.

At the same time -- go to sorority rush if available. There's no obligation to take a bid, or even seriously pursue one, but there's are a lot of reasons why women loved their sorority experience, and if she's going to a big state school, the Greek experience is in important respects (contacts for a life in business and politics, for example) superior for people for whom Greek life is a realistic option.
posted by MattD at 11:08 AM on September 2 [3 favorites]


Consent! Practice saying no to things she doesn't want to do, even if she likes the person she's with. Practice being loud and assertive if someone (friend or stranger) doesn't respect her nice "no". Also, practice asking for things she wants and practice hearing "no" or hesitancy (look up "enthusiastic consent"). Talk about healthy relationships generally, if you haven't.

Related: mace is a bad idea if she hasn't practiced with it, a bad idea if she's easily disarmed, and she's probably not going to mace someone she knows no matter how badly they're acting. Running is often a better response than fighting. Self-defense training is usually most beneficial in teaching people to carry themselves with confidence.

Practice intervening in situations that are about to get out of hand - if a drunk friend is talking to someone they aren't close to and that person is acting inappropriately, calmly step into the conversation, ask how friend is doing, exchange a few sentences with companion, possibly encourage friend to join up with your group again. Also works if your friend is the one being inappropriate.

(this stuff is important for everybody, but I think it falls in the same vein "talk when kid reaches a milestone of more independence")
posted by momus_window at 11:10 AM on September 2


I love what viggorlijah says about doctors. Sometimes the stress of a new setting makes a young student's health go "bonk," and encourage her to listen to herself, her body, what is normal for her. If she encounters a doctor who says things like "this may just be stress/in your head, just get some rest," with no real help or "I guess you're just a person who gets nosebleeds/depression/whatever" keep trying. Whether it's mental or physical. Some things truly will blow over, of course, but if there's something really wrong women sometimes have to push past that "hysteria" stigma to find a good doc.
posted by Lardmitten at 11:19 AM on September 2


-Don't live on the ground floor; only live on the first floor if you really have no choice. Ask me how I found out!

--Why is this?


I believe it's because it's easier for an intruder to climb in a ground-floor window.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:19 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Definitely reinforce the lock your doors and windows idea. I live down the street from a mid-sized university and easily half of the local police blotter is some variation on "three laptops stolen from unlocked apartment".
posted by Ham Snadwich at 11:27 AM on September 2 [3 favorites]


I don't have much to contribute to the "how did you learn these things" discussion, especially as I am not a member of your target group.

But since a lot of this thread has moved to "what advice would you give" I'd like to strongly stress a point that others have already made, but which I believe you need to really underscore for your daughter: that awareness of your situation is the single most fundamental safety skill -- virtually everything else you can learn to keep you safe builds off of it but if you are not paying attention to the world around you it may not matter much what skills you have or what equipment you are carrying.

I'm writing this as a 6'3" male who was once accustomed to relying on the deterrent effect my physical size provided -- until the night that I wound up robbed by three men, beaten over the head with a pistol butt, and eventually locked in the trunk of my own car while my assailants took it for a 3-hour joy ride.

I learned that lesson the hard way and am offering it to the rest of you to derive whatever benefit you can from my mistake.

(Oh, and I'll throw in a free bonus lesson, too: the incident above didn't happen in the sort of stereotypical "bad area" where everybody assumes such things happen: it took place in a prosperous midwestern college town. Yes, your odds of having a bad experience are higher in some places than in others, obviously. But that doesn't mean that you can assume you are safe when you are not in one of "those" places.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:28 AM on September 2 [5 favorites]


Tell her to memorize a friends phone number. My friend and I did this for eachother and we called it "help I'm stranded and I cant call my parents because it involved sex and or drugs" It was used successfully. also have some sort of short code with a friend that basically means drop everything and come back me up. So like if you're on a date gone sour you can have a phrase like "I just saw someone who looks just like Kelly at [your location]" and thats the bat signal to swoop in and rescue.

On a more mental safety note, she should be aware that just because men are in college does not mean they are enlightened beings. Tehre are still hoards of men in college that want a girl with "traditional values" and other code speak for submissive / subservient.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:30 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


If you're walking, and sense that you are being followed by a car, one thing you can do is just do an about-face and start walking in the opposite direction. Or you could turn into the next well-lighted house or store but I would be careful about not turning into any place that is more secluded than the street.

Don't necessarily trust your roommate right off the bat. I had one who told me, first thing, "Oh, you don't need to lock your closet like they tell you to". Then I had a couple hundred dollars stolen from my purse, either by her or her visitors.
posted by auntie maim at 11:32 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Tell her things that the school or the culture or her peers will probably not tell her: that she is not required to be nice or polite to anyone who is making her uncomfortable; that she should trust her own instincts; that if someone is making her mad and she doesn't know why, it might be because they're trying to steam-roll over her boundaries; that doing something sexual once with a guy (or girl) doesn't mean that she has to do that with him again; that she should pay attention to the guys she knows who aren't good at respecting her boundaries, because statistically those are the guys who are dangerous and not a random rapist in the bushes; that if she stands up for her rights and her bodily-autonomy that she may be called a "bitch" or worse, but that just means she's probably doing something right and not wrong; that she has the right to get mad at the guys who disregard or belittle her opinions one moment and then try and flirt with her the next; that she's not crazy if she likes the attention from a guy for a while but eventually gets uncomfortable with it or changes her mind.
posted by colfax at 11:44 AM on September 2 [8 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos mentioned self-defense classes -- just wanted to throw in that at several schools around here (in the Northeast), there is a program called "R.A.D." (Rape Awareness Defense) and they offer free classes, typically conducted by university police plus someone at the school, where they teach you a lot of what is talked about here. I did this and the best part was being able to practice. They have someone grab you and you're supposed to scream your head off and escape using the techniques you learned. You can do it as many times as you want until you're comfortable. So I would look for that.

Also, in addition to all the great advice you've gotten above, let her know that no matter what happens, she can always tell you and you will always be on her side. Sometimes shit happens and she may be reluctant to tell you about it if she feels you'll blame her for not following your advice.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:49 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


In the same vein as 'never leave your drunk friend behind', Never go out drinking with people who would leave you behind. If your friends leave you behind, they aren't your friends. I've seen a lot of this in the first weeks of school with freshmen in college.

Information on birth control. Information on emergency birth control.

Slightly off topic Stuff no one told me that I'd wished I'd known: birth control will make those incredibly debilitating cramps calm down and maybe if you'd known that earlier you wouldn't have done as badly in organic chemistry where the tests were exactly four weeks apart and there were no make up exams allowed.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:07 PM on September 2 [6 favorites]


Advice should be tempered by your knowledge of the recipient. If she's already pretty cautious, you might just make her more so, in ways that will limit her life, and women's lives are already limited by fear of violence. I have gone lots of places alone, walk and talk confidently, and when in danger, have been loud and pissed off. The best part about taking a self-defense class was the confidence, and the practice in being willing to hit, kick, yell.

She should have apps on her phone: 1st Aid, flash light, emergency numbers.

Teach her to trust herself and her instincts. Teach her she deserves to be taken seriously, deserves to be heard, deserves fairness, equality, respect, equal pay. Teach her to vote.
posted by theora55 at 12:15 PM on September 2 [3 favorites]


also have some sort of short code with a friend that basically means drop everything and come back me up. So like if you're on a date gone sour you can have a phrase like "I just saw someone who looks just like Kelly at [your location]" and thats the bat signal to swoop in and rescue.

As a sort of addendum to this, always have a safety call lined up when you are meeting up with someone for the first time. Online dating, blind dates, even meeting up with someone platonically one on one for the first time... have a safety call. Back when I was single and dating I usually had multiple safety calls lined up from multiple people when I went on first dates. When they called if things were going okay I'd just say "Thanks for calling, I'm good!". If it was not going well and I needed an out I'd be all "Oh no, really? God, I'll be right there!", apologize, and then leave. Having that out came in handy more than once.

ALWAYS have at least one safety call.

And if you are meeting up with a new person, I would always make sure someone knows the name and a broad description of who you are meeting, and where you are meeting up with them. Just in case.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:17 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


A bunch of advice. Some of this is just personal experience, some is from reading reports on campus assault.

Be aware that the beginning of the school year especially is a time when young women are at risk of assault at parties, in dorm rooms, etc. This is so because:
(1) Being new to a physical space makes it easy to get disoriented, so you're not confident about just leaving the party and finding your way home.
(2) Being new to a social scene makes you less confident in your own judgment - being able to distinguish normal partying from excessive drinking or excessive social pressure, etc.
(3) You don't have a network of allies and trusted friends in place (and access to the gossip/information network about who's sketchy) yet.
(4) Bluntly, the upperclass men are much bigger/older than your peers in high school, and that alone can be disorienting, flattering, exciting, scary, pressuring, etc.

As you're heading off to school, think about how you can counter/reduce some of those factors. Learn the way back from anyplace you go. Learn major campus landmarks so you know your way back from unfamiliar locations. Make agreements with other new women about not leaving each other at a party; not accepting that you've "just decided to go be alone" with a guy, etc. Be willing to trust your gut (about what seems excessive/sketchy) even though you're not sure. Don't be bowled over by the bigness/impressiveness/age/whatever of the guys - you are still the best judge of what's safe and appropriate for your own self, don't lose sight of that.

Think clearly about alcohol. Alcohol affects women more strongly than men, both for body weight reasons and because women have less of the enzyme that breaks alcohol down -- so don't try to keep pace with male peers. Eat before drinking. Set your own expectations of how much you plan to drink - understanding that drinks with liquor are stronger than beer, so if you can handle (for example) two beers in two hours, you maybe can only handle one cocktail in the same time period, even though the cocktail will go down a lot faster and easier. Sweet cocktails are easy to overdo.

Think clearly about the men you're encountering in this first semester. In particular, upperclass men who are seeking the company of new first-year women in a party setting -- consider why. Think about senior boys in high school who would seek out freshmen girls. Obviously, hooking up is something you might be interested in too, but think about why they are seeking out freshmen specifically -- it's partly because (they think) you have less power, and you might be easier to push around. This is not a great recommendation of them as hookup partners.

Observe behavior. Sketchy behavior is a good sign to leave conversation with this dude. Do he or his friends seem to be:
- angling to separate you (or another woman) from your friend group?
- trying to get you away from the original party, to another location?
- pressuring you to have more to drink once you've said "no thanks, I'm good for now"?
- pushing your stated boundaries in any way, like not dropping a subject (especially something like your or other women's physical appearance or sexual past) once you've made it clear you want them to drop it, or continuing to touch you once you've said stop it?

Be aware of charisma. Charismatic people are magnetic and exciting but can be dangerous. Not because they're always bad, but because they have the superpower of getting people to go along with them... so if they are bad, they will be given a lot of latitude by other people who should know better. And charismatic+bad people will be good at worming under your own radar too. So this is what people mean by saying "trust your gut." It's those charismatic dudes who will have you thinking "he's so cool, and I don't want to be uncool, so maybe I'll just loosen up and go back to the afterparty even though I feel like this isn't a good idea" or whatever. If you can be aware of this tendency, you can look at that guy more objectively -- does he seem to have a magic power over people around him? That is a guy you don't want to be alone with yet, until you know him better from arms-length or learn what his reputation is more widely.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:30 PM on September 2 [3 favorites]


Also, just IMO - don't get together with somebody who is mean, even if it seems like funny-mean or only directed at other people. Someone who's mean (and who shows this off in your first meetings!) will eventually be mean to you.

Listen to how a guy talks about other women. Does he make mean remarks about their appearance or that they're easy/sluts/whatever? Say stuff like "all the upperclass women are so stuck up" or how his ex-girlfriend was crazy or whatever, as an explanation of why he's interested in freshman women? All of these tell you his attitude about all women, including you. Does he treat other people in a bad way -- mean teasing, playing mean tricks, taking advantage of friends etc? Tells you that he doesn't respect other people, including you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:38 PM on September 2 [17 favorites]


Oh -- another thing.

Credit card debt is a big deal. Don't sign up for cards until you know how to budget and track expenses daily/weekly/monthly. Stick to your budget as much as possible and resist the urge to feel like you absolutely have to take that trip to Vegas or get tickets to that one special concert when other people are going. Plan and save for those expenses. Don't mooch off of others to do it, either. Be honorable to yourself and others about money. It matters.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:47 PM on September 2 [7 favorites]


I will add this detail:

Most rapes of the sort she will be at risk for -- date rape, campus rape -- involve alcohol. So being careful about whom you drink with and how much you drink and how much the people around you drink is one of the best things she can do to avoid being raped while in college.

The source of this info is that I was molested and raped as a kid, so I did a great deal of reading on the subject of human sexuality over the years and did two college papers specifically on date rape and I continue to just keep an eye on such things. It remains a topic of interest to me. A blurb from an article comes to mind: A campus official stated that in the previous x years (I think 4) there was only a single reported on-campus rape that did not involve alcohol.

So things like not getting just rip roaring drunk (unless she has made special arrangements to do that under safe circumstances), not drinking on a first date with a guy she barely knows, not letting guys get rip roaring drunk (and out of control) around her, and that kind of thing is the best way to stay safe in that regard.
posted by Michele in California at 12:54 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Most rapes of the sort she will be at risk for

I mean: In the next few years, while she is a college student. In the immediate future.
posted by Michele in California at 12:56 PM on September 2


I asked my two daughters in college. They said:

* sit in the front row of your classes. Ask questions, see your teachers during office hours.
* If you're going to go to a frat party, go with at least one other person and have an escape plan.
* always keep an emergency $20 in your wallet or pocket.
* as nice as a person may be, NEVER go home with them after a party. Just make a real date for another time.
* don't be an idiot about drinking. Both my daughters knew girls who got alcohol poisoning their first few weeks of college. You CAN'T handle as much liquor as you think you can.
* If you have roommates who want to check out all the parties, you don't have to go.
* If a nice guy walks you home from class or from dinner or whatever and your roommate is not home, don't invite him up. Again, plan another get together. But not alone in your dorm.
* Don't steal any of your roommates clothes or makeup or anything.
* Just because you can get fries at every meal doesn't mean you should eat fries at every meal.
* Use the gym.
*****don't go to frat parties. Just don't do it.
posted by kinetic at 2:14 PM on September 2 [13 favorites]


Sorry, my eldest just added this and I want to add that this is the perception of her and her female friends:

* many, many freshman young men are out of their homes for the first time, away from parents, and have easy access to parties and alcohol. As individuals, they're trying out new identities and when sober, they can remember their manners and behave themselves.

Freshmen men in a group, especially when drinking, can be dangerous. They can misbehave, they can be overly aggressive. They can be frightening.

Try to NEVER be alone with freshmen men who have been drinking and don't ever be alone with a group of boys who have been drinking. They're not on their best behavior.
posted by kinetic at 2:38 PM on September 2 [4 favorites]


I'm male, but let me add a positive note based on my daughter's example. Make friends, and be intentional about keeping the friendships alive.

Speaking as a father, don't trust a man just because he's a professor or instructor.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:41 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


If we're talking about dorms, pretty much every one I lived in had windows that were almost impossible to climb through, lockable or both.

And like I said, she's not going to have a say in what floor she's on that first semester most likely.
posted by Kimmalah at 3:20 PM on September 2


A million times YES on the credit cards. We used to have those people by the truckload trying to get us to sign up for a card at the Big State School I went to. One girl I knew -a friend of a friend graduated with 69k in credit card debt. After getting a full scholarship to School and pretty much having her crap in gear otherwise.
posted by floweredfish at 3:33 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


If you are alone with some dude, no matter how much you like him and no matter how nice he is; if you get the least whiff of pressure to get friskier than you want to, and you aren't absolutely certain that you have the skills to navigate that situation, excuse yourself immediately and go somewhere with other people. Do not pass go, do not worry what impression this gives, do not hang about to debate the matter with this dude. You can discuss it in a public place if necessary. It is always always ok to do this.

If you are running away from a scary situation, don't just run away from danger; run towards safety.

If you see some dude offering to see some semi conscious young lady safely home, let him off the hook and do it yourself.

Do not let yourself chicken out of dumping someone.
posted by emilyw at 3:52 PM on September 2 [7 favorites]


Always lock your car doors at the gas station. Someone could climb inside, or reach in and grab your purse. Actually, don't leave your purse in the car, either - they could break a window and grab it.
Source: news website. I think it was ABC News.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:17 PM on September 2


Adding to MexicanYenta's advice - never leave anything of value visible inside your car, even if locked. Source: constant reminders from neighborhood police liaison.
posted by mmiddle at 5:13 PM on September 2


Trust your gut.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:40 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


How to know when you're fucking up: you know you're fucking up when you fail to meet your obligations; you cancel on friends, you don't turn in assignments, miss classes, you're not doing what you say you're going to do. It doesn't matter what it is -- you're going to try a lot of things - drugs, sex, alcohol - it doesn't matter if it's because you're watching too much tv or spending all of your time with the new love of your life or getting high all the time -- if you're not meeting the commitments that you've made, you're fucking up -- and you've got to do something different.

Also - unrelated - practice this phrase: "This isn't working for me, let's try something else."
This phrase is useful in so many settings, including and maybe most importantly, sex. But also group projects, roommate situations, study groups, etc. Memorize it so that it comes easily when you need it.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:40 PM on September 2 [3 favorites]


If you have group projects, there will always be someone in the group that won't do squat.
Pee after sex.
Get a small tool kit and learn how to use it.
Small flashlights on your keyring are always handy.
In the age of the internet, still get to know your professors. Don't e-mail them at every turn.
Office supplies are your friends. Keep a nice stash. Staples, tape, binders, printer paper, markers, etc. You, or someone you know will need them at an awkward hour and you won't feel like going to Wal-Mart or where ever.
Learn how to drive a stick shift. You may end up being a designated driver or just don't feel like drinking. That way you can help get everyone back to dorm, home, etc.
Always tell someone where you are going. It will help keep you safe and its just common courtesy in case there is someone that worries.
Keep a little cash in your pocket, and keep cash stashes in your room.
posted by PJMoore at 7:05 PM on September 2 [2 favorites]


(1) Have her read "The Dark Power of Fraternities" by Caitlin Flanagan. Then hope she never goes near one. Ever.

(2) Teach her the difference between being "assertive" and being "aggressive." It's easy to flip from passive to aggressive; but assertion is a trickier order. On a related note, make sure she understands that if she starts struggling with being "fair" to someone, she should stop, reassess, and assert what *she* wants.

(3) Seconding keeping a whistle on her keyring; I had to use mine once, and my would-be harrasser mistook me for a cop! Meanwhile, I've heard several stories of people self-macing, or mace that simply didn't work.

(4) Teach her the basics of domestic finance, including learning how to save. College environments are increasingly set up for the rich who can afford temptation. If she can't, she should learn how to abstain now. I know oh-so-many people who ended up in debt for years after college, which is a wicked thing to do to the young in this country.

(5) Finally, and sadly, make sure some of her coursework is practical and aims at a still deeply-tough job market. Her time in school should probably include one or more internships. If at all possible, see if she can do one (or more) that actually pays her.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:25 PM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Buy her a bike and show her how to lock it up. This ties into my main point: don't drink and drive. Don't put yourself in a situation where you have to get in a car with a drink driver or be left behind. This 100% will happen freshman year so have a plan. Know how much your driver has been drinking and don't let people pressure you. Don't get a dui or in an accident.

98% of the men I met in college were wonderful, nice guys. A couple were not. Its ok not to want to go places where the pushy or alcoholic or obnoxious or creepy guys are. Other guys are not always the best judge of their friends character.

There's a lot of advice here about frat parties but I probably ran into more creeps in class than I ever did at parties. Parties we alwyas went to in huge mixed sex groups, and that's the safest way to do it, imho. Stick with your friends and peers. Don't get left alone, and don't leave other people alone, stay where the music is, in a group. Don't go upstairs or leave with someone, no matter how cute or popular he is.

Oh, and stick to drinking cheap beer at parties. It's a lot harder to get blackout drunk on pbr than it is on tequila.
posted by fshgrl at 8:27 PM on September 2


Another article, another addendum. Have her read Emily Yoffee's article from "Slate": "College Women: Stop Getting Drunk: It’s closely associated with sexual assault. And yet we’re reluctant to tell women to stop doing it." It was highly controversial across the Web, and likely on some part of Metafilter, too, that I didn't see. Yet I'm sorry to say I found it highly persuasive and, in fact, it reminds me of Amy Schumer's bit about "a 'sliding scale' of rape. 'We’ve all been a little bit raped,' the bit goes. 'Like, not totes consensch. There is a gray area of rape.' Turning to an audience member: 'You’ve been graped, right?' Bits like 'grape' caused the audience’s women to implode with laughter...."

All idealism aside, I think there is much truth in that observation, and if I had a daughter, it's an experience I'd fervently hope she didn't share....
posted by Violet Blue at 8:49 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


I heard all of this stuff as old wives' tales from my mom, not to mention Horrible Things On The News.

I actually haven't run into much trouble. Mostly I would say to NEVER go alone to a bar or party, and make darned sure you can run to the protection of a friend when (not if) a creepy dude starts creeping on you. And avoid the homeless guys. I've been grabbed on the street by homeless guys in broad daylight worse than I ever have gotten while walking home alone at 3 a.m. because I was a lone female. I don't like going around big city streets without other people around for that reason.

"Watch for signs that a guy doesn't respect boundaries."

Really, that's the #1 thing for me right there.

Oh, regarding credit cards: I don't recommend getting one when you arrive at college, but if you don't get one before you leave college, you will have a bitch of time getting one after college--and you really really do HAVE TO HAVE CREDIT for adult life. Get one in your junior or senior year, after you've learned how to work one. Ask your parents.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:56 PM on September 2


When I was going off to college, my mom filled my head with fears about watching my drink and not walking alone at night, and I mostly ignored her. I trusted my friends, felt invincible, and didn't want to live in fear. However, I made some mistakes, and these are the biggest ones.

- Feeling like I had something to prove. I needed to show people I could drink a lot, be crazy and generally pull off things other people were too afraid of. It largely worked out, but I did some really risky shit that terrifies me as an adult.

- Hating myself. I didn't care if I got too drunk or too high. I didn't care if I was in danger. I hated myself and wanted to do everything I could to not feel that way. I've since done a lot of research on sexual assault in college, and this more than anything marked me as a target. HOWEVER, my saving grace was that I enjoyed getting really fucked up in small groups and made some good friends who took care of me and helped me become a better person.

- Not being able to say no. To anything, even when it was really bad. And getting stuck in bad relationships.

These things are much more complicated problems than "watch your drink," but only 1-2% of campus sexual assaults are committed with drugs. If you really want to teach her more about sexual assault prevention, David Lisak is a researcher with a huge amount of work that talks about patterns of targeting. Predators tend to start slow and cross small boundaries before crossing large ones. So, she needs to watch out for someone who will stand too close, encourage another drink when she says she's had too much, or make inappropriately sexual conversation to see if she is "cool." People like this often appear very charismatic and sometimes flattering, but very much in control of a situation. Self-confidence around boundaries and good friends are super important.
posted by ohisee at 11:54 PM on September 2 [2 favorites]


'The gift of fear' book was mentioned above, I think, but I'll recommend it again. It's basically a book that discusses trusting that 'uneasy feeling in my gut' and all kinds of ways in which it might play out.

Generally, the more confident you seem, the less sketchy situations you end up in - both when walking down the street and in friendship-like situations. Nobody goes for the hard marks.

Have a no-questions-asked escape route from an unpleasant sitation. This is usually a friend.

For many people, parents aren't an option in cases that involve sex, drugs, alcohol or similar sketchy situations - which frequently leads to worse situations. An example here would be a guy who blackmailed a girl into staying in a bad relationship by threatening to tell her parents... who would then stop helping her pay for college (this is a real story.) Don't be this parent. Help them be safe - it might happen anyway. If they end up in a bad place, be someone they can call.

Being assaulted alone at night, and that kind of thing are really quite rare. It's far more likely that she'll end up in a situation with the main threats being peer pressure (to keep drinking, to 'be cool', to say yes to things she isn't quite comfortable with, sexually or otherwise), and the only drug being alcohol.

Frequently some practical aspects of relationships and sex are also a good way to find out what the situation actually is. For example, a guy who starts being an asshole when you say 'meet up another day' rather than invite him into the dorms? Bad idea. The guy who says 'sounds great'? Good sign. Similarly, any situation in which a guy presses you to do more than you're comfortable with, any situation in which you're pressured into not using condoms (at least initially), etc. are signs of a bad situation.

I can't think of a single bad situation, ever, where someone was wiling to take 'No' for an answer. This can apply even when you ARE comfortable with the situation - sometimes it's a good way to find out if the situation is what you think it is.

How did I learn this kind of thing? Sadly, the most common route is word of mouth from friends who've learned it the hard way. Campus self defence classes and safety talks are often also effective, plus social media etc.
posted by Ashlyth at 12:16 AM on September 3


A few further thoughts:

- heath wise, it may be worth offering to cover the cost of things like health insurance, birth control, STD tests, dental checkups, etc. At 18, I wish I'd made some different choices between getting a dental checkup and spending that money on something fun. (I.e. blanket reimbursement for essential medical expenses, if that's an option for you.)

- credit card traps - worth talking to her about!

Finally: a lot of this stuff guys should be told as well, and it's a pity that it often isn't. Boundary-pushing is sadly common and often encouraged by mass media (see movies where an overly persistent guy 'gets' the girl in the end.) I have a lot of male friends, too, and a lot of them say they learned about what not to do from either female friends or a girlfriend.

If she's comfortable with this socially - talking about this kind of thing to not just her female friends will likely result in a safer social circle for her overall. If everyone's aware, the people who do this with predatory intentions.... both stand out and are far more likely to stay away. Research in general regarding rapists show that they usually think everyone thinks like they do, and thus they aren't doing anything wrong.
posted by Ashlyth at 12:45 AM on September 3


Oh -- one more. Sometimes being safe is going to mean being the odd one out. Sometimes you can gracefully pick the safer path, sometimes you have to be a bit confrontational. One time at a bar in college I flat-out refused to get in a car driven by two guys who had been drinking A TON and took a cab instead. My two girlfriends who were with me rolled their eyes and implied I was being annoying and high maintenance. I felt ashamed for not being cool but now in my 30's I look back and give myself a high five. You go young rogerroger!

(Also, always bring cash for a cab/a cell phone charge to make sure you can call an Uber.)
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 8:11 AM on September 3 [1 favorite]


One last thing. If anything does happen call the real police, not the campus police. Don't let the university provide a lawyer, call you.
posted by fshgrl at 10:39 AM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Kinetic Jr adds:

You will very probably at one point, overindulge and vomit, have a terrible hangover, or realize you did something really stupid because you were drinking.

REFLECT UPON THAT MOMENT. Think about how it happened.

Ensure it doesn't happen again. You are not a massive failure and you shouldn't be ashamed. Drunk and vomit and hangovers happen. Just don't do it again.

Also, if you start feeling like crap and hating school and skipping classes, GO TO THE SCHOOL'S WELLNESS CENTER.

You are not the first freshman who got whammied by depressed feelings in college. They want to help you and they will help you.

And as much as others may say, "It's a big lecture and you don't need to go to class," GO TO CLASS.
posted by kinetic at 3:04 AM on September 4


Something my mom told me, "a lot of your problems will arise from saying yes too soon, or saying no too late."
In hindsight, I know that was very true. Carefully consider what you're saying yes to, be it friends, relationships, academics, jobs, anything.
posted by greta_01 at 8:30 PM on September 6 [3 favorites]


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