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College Student Guide: Real-world safety tips
Navigating college is difficult enough without being a victim

ONE OF THE greatest joys about being in college is going out. And one of the most valuable lessons you'll learn in college is how to go out safely — especially in Savannah, which you may have heard isn't exactly what you'd call crime-free.

You’re probably going to spend a lot of nights out downtown, so it’s for your own good that you know how to be safe.

I’m no stranger at going out, but I’m also no expert at giving safety advice. For more guidance, I turned to Kesha Gibson-Carter, the executive director over at the Rape Crisis Center, who gave me some excellent advice that applies to everyone.

Always be in some sort of group.

Whether you’re trying to have a chill night or bring your entire squad along, it’s a good idea for you to bring at least one friend out with you. People by themselves are a prime target, so don’t play yourself.

Pay attention to the friends in your group and make sure everyone gets home safely. If you have a friend who tends to slink away, keep a close eye on her and check in often.

If you rode together in a group, make sure that anyone who’s not going back home with you has a way to get there.

Don’t ever let anyone walk home alone, even if they say they want to.

“Make sure you always have a ride home or a plan to walk home with a friend or roommate,” urges Gibson-Carter. “Make a plan before you go out.”

It’s tricky to avoid being alone sometimes, so if you need to walk alone, carry pepper spray or your keys. Keep them in your hands, ready to use, the entire time.

Never accept a drink from anyone else unless you watched the bartender make it.

Getting roofied at a party sounds like something your parents made up to scare you. But it is not unrealistic, and you should be aware that it can happen to you.

I know a lot of girls, myself included, who have been offered drinks by boys we just met, and when we turn them down, they get angry and defensive—“What, you think I drugged it?” Actually, yeah, I do.

These days, drugging someone’s drink can be as easy as dropping an Ambien into it. If you’re distracted or already drunk, you might not notice.

The easiest solution is to pay strict attention to your drink.

“Don’t accept a drink from anyone unless you can watch the bartender pour it,” suggests Gibson-Carter. “If your drink is out of your sight, even for a few seconds, get a new one. Don’t share drinks, don’t drink from punch bowls or open containers.”

Always be aware of your surroundings.

It’s hard when you’re tipsy, but keep an eye out for anything shady going on, like someone who’s following you around or who keeps staring you down.

This isn’t only for girls! A male friend of mine was once followed by an angry-looking man on his way to the bar. The angry man stood outside the bar for the nearly two hours we were there, and we didn’t leave until he dipped.

If you’re feeling uneasy about a situation, don’t keep it to yourself—discreetly tell a friend or the bouncer.

“Trust your instincts,” Gibson-Carter advises. “If something doesn’t feel right to you, leave and get to a safe place immediately.”

Uber everywhere.

Parking downtown can be difficult to figure out, especially if you’re new and don’t know about sweep zones. Uber eliminates the parking difficulty, as well as any chance of you driving home drunk.

Honestly, there is no reason you shouldn’t call an Uber—you can split the fee on the app, the prices are relatively low when there’s no surge, and it’s safe.

I have several friends who are hesitant to take Ubers by themselves, which is a valid fear, but did you know that Uber drivers must stay above a specific rating or they get removed from the app?

If your Uber driver seems sketchy, call a friend while you’re riding and give the driver a low rating as soon as you’re home safely.

Go out with a full battery.

Bring a portable charger if you have to, but never let your phone die while you’re out. “You never know when you’ll need it,” says Gibson-Carter.

Girls, don’t be afraid to give a guy the brush-off.

People are weird, man, and rejection stings. I myself am a people-pleaser and feel guilty when turning people down.

But if a guy is coming on too strong to you and won’t leave you alone, you have every right to ask them to leave you alone. It might feel rude, but it’s better than mincing your words and putting yourself in a situation you don’t want.

There’s also no need to be rude about it—you can firmly but politely inform them that you’re not interested.

I suck at confrontation, so my favorite trick is to grab my closest girl friend, ask her to accompany me to the bathroom, and leave.

This trick is best practiced at bars with multiple rooms, like the Rail or Social, where you can disappear into the street and homeboy is none the wiser.

But for a single-room bar, like the Jinx or El-Rocko, being direct is required. “I’m sorry, we’re in the middle of a discussion” works well. So does the old “I have a boyfriend” line.