Fairfield has a reputation for being a pretty safe campus, but how safe is it actually?

A lot of people leave their doors unlocked when they’re not home and pretty much everyone feels comfortable leaving their iPhones and MacBooks unattended in Barone.

We like to think that at Fairfield, our home away from home, nothing can hurt us.

Over my own three years here at Fairfield, I’ve never been the victim of a crime.

I’m lucky enough that my pockets have never been picked, my Townhouse was never broken into and I haven’t felt personally or physically threatened, whether on campus or not.

I say “lucky” because sometimes these things can be impossible to prevent, so you can never be too prepared.

Especially for the young women here, you can never take too many precautions to ensure your own safety.

I’m not trying to scare you guys; by the numbers Fairfield is an incredibly safe campus.

In fact, in 2012, there were only four reports of sexual misconduct by Fairfield students.

But numbers only say so much. How many incidents went unreported that year? We have no way of knowing, but my guess is that it isn’t zero.

Sometimes sexual assaults go unreported because the victim doesn’t even know they’ve been assaulted.

When you’re out at that awesome Townhouse party this year with all your new friends and someone touches you inappropriately without your consent, that is sexual misconduct, and you should not hesitate to report it.

Becoming the victim of any crime can be traumatizing, but sexual assault is a crime that is becoming more and more prevalent among college campuses in the United States.

This is why it’s especially important to always be aware: Know where you are, know where your friends are.

On campus, the Department of Public Safety can sometimes have the reputation for being the bad guys: They break up parties and write people up; everyone at Fairfield has experienced this side of DPS.

They are hardly ever recognized for helping students who have had way much to drink, been abusing drugs, or even been robbed or attacked. But it’s because Fairfield is a safe place, that we associate DPS with ending ragers rather than protecting students.

But the students here don’t make it very easy.

We spend more time staring at our phones than we do analyzing the environment around us, and it can get us into trouble.

When we make ourselves oblivious to the outside world, we are victimizing ourselves.

Make sure you pay attention to where your friends are when you’re at parties; don’t leave your drink unattended and don’t leave the party by yourself.

But parties aren’t the only places you should be aware.  Finals week takes its toll on everyone’s stress levels, and if you’re on your way home from the library at 3 a.m., text your friends before you leave, and call DPS for an escort. It’s free, a lot safer and you won’t have to walk by yourself (which is especially nice when the weather gets frosty).

While it’s terrifying to even consider, if you or a friend of yours becomes the victim of a crime, especially if they are sexually assaulted, you should feel comfortable reporting the attack to DPS. Even if you think “S/He was just too drunk, they didn’t mean it,” or “It was probably an accident,” sexual misconduct is not something to brush off.

This attacker might victimize another person because they have gotten away with it before.

There are blue lights all over campus which have emergency phones, and DPS is supposed to arrive within 60 seconds if a blue light being activated.

Besides DPS, Fairfield’s Counseling and Psychological Services center is located in a discreet alcove behind Dolan Hall, and provides a supportive foundation from which victims can start the healing process.

The distinction to make here is that, while Fairfield is a safe campus, we are not a campus of students that practice safety.

As you begin your new lives here at Fairfield, make sure you’re keeping an eye out for yourself and those around you by staying aware and making smart choices.

Speaking of smart choices, maybe start by not leaving your iPhone on the table in Barone.

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