Indiana Daily Student

Members of IU community share safety tips for students on campus

<p>IU sophomore Kathleen Simunek points her pepper spray Sept. 29, 2021, outside Myers Hall. Many feminine-presenting college students carry pepper spray for their safety.</p>

IU sophomore Kathleen Simunek points her pepper spray Sept. 29, 2021, outside Myers Hall. Many feminine-presenting college students carry pepper spray for their safety.

Editor's Note: This story includes mention of sexual violence.

IU freshman Lauren Thompson said she entered her first year on high alert. She grew up in a safe area and isn’t used to the number of unfamiliar people on the university’s campus, or even the people that live off-campus.

“I think it’s scary that we’re in a city of just regular people and people coming to IU from all over the place,” Thompson said. “Different backgrounds, different outlooks on the world and everything.” 

Recently, there have been sexual assault and rape allegations on campus at fraternities and residence halls. For example, the IU Police Department reported a man sexually harassed another person at an on-campus residence hall on Sept. 21. 

There are numerous ways women can defend themselves on campus. Along with carrying a personal safety alarm, Thompson said she always stays observant of her surroundings and makes sure to travel in groups.

“Crime could happen at any point, anywhere in the world, at any hour,” Thompson said. “So just stay observant whenever you’re out by yourself or even with a group of friends.”

Jill Lees, chief of police of IUPD, said one of the best pieces of advice she has for safety on campus is being observant. Even in the daytime, students who are not paying attention could get hit by a car or scooter, she said.

“So many times driving around campus, I see students walking glued to their phones, even in the daytime,” Lees said.

Lees is an instructor of the Rape Aggression Defense System class that IUPD teaches with the Bloomington Police Department. The course teaches women and teens self-defense techniques. The class is postponed due to COVID-19, but Lees said she hopes to have it back soon. 

She said being aware of what’s going on around oneself can help students prevent ever having to use defense tactics.

“Before you even get to that point, I think it’s so, so important to be aware of your surroundings and not put yourself in a situation where that could potentially be dangerous,” Lees said.

Lees said IU students can download the Rave Guardian app which allows students to connect to resources such as IUPD and Counseling and Psychological Services, and receive safety alerts.

“IUPD is a resource for everyone,” Lees said. “We want people to stay safe. And also one of the best safety things you can do is download the Rave Guardian app.”

She said it is also of utmost importance to report a crime if it occurs.

“If someone is a victim of a crime, please report it,” Lees said. “Then that can help prevent further victimization.”

IU freshman Karis Balmer said one of the main issues in safety she recognizes is the lack of conversation or follow-up from authorities that happens after a crime report is sent out.

“Once we get the email, we read it, and that’s the end of the conversation,” Balmer said. “Nothing happens. We don’t hear about anything happening to the suspects or people looking for them.”

Balmer said she follows all the recommended safety guidelines, such as holding pepper spray and a flashlight at night. But, she said it’s important to recognize that no one is invincible, and although people may think it’ll never happen to them, it is still possible.

She said she is frustrated with how much women have to go through to prevent getting attacked. She said she hopes to see an improvement with how society responds to violence against women.

“It’s very disappointing the way — not just IU — the way schools and society as a whole handle sexual assault and rape and violence against women in general,” Balmer said. “It’s really upsetting how easy it is for suspects and their perpetrators to just get away with anything, but women have to jump through so many hoops and do so much just to not be another statistic."

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