Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. Before you cozy up and get hit by cupid’s arrow, you need to make sure that whatever activity you participate in, you are safe from sexual predators. Many of us have heard our parents or adult influences warn us about the dangers of sexual predators. How long will it be or how many unfortunate news stories will occur before people, especially young adults, take this issue seriously? Rape and sexual assault are no joking matter. I have lived on a college campus for three years now and I hear more people joking about it than people caring to stop it. Living on a college campus is great; you get to meet new people, go different places, enjoy new experiences, and become responsible for your own life. However, this responsibility is new to many young adults and if you are not careful and make wise choices, you can become a victim.
According to the Uniform Crime Report  there were 83,425 rapes reported in 2011. The CDC  (Centers for Disease Control) stated that about 80 percent of female rape victims were first raped at age 25 or younger. That is a huge number of kids we’re talking about in high school and college. The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)  showed that one-third of the women in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In the 2009 CVS  (Crime Victimization Survey) conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics it was highlighted that 70 percent of violent crimes against women were committed by someone they knew. To me, those statistics are astounding, and terrifying.
Although I live on a very small college campus, I still know people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Attending a college party or meeting with a friend alone in their dorm can turn out to be dangerous if you don’t know the other students very well.
There are other dangerous situations in which people have been victims of rape or sexual assault. With social networking and dating sites becoming increasingly prominent, you often hear about friends meeting people they don’t know online, or even going to meet this stranger in person. According to the Enough-is-Enough  website, 65 percent of online sex offenders used social networking sites to get home or school information about a victim. Meeting with or even talking to someone you don’t know can be extremely risky. You can never be sure that the person you are talking to is actually who they say they are.
There are some simple rules I live by that have helped me and my friends out of potentially hazardous situations:
1) Always go out with a group of friends; that way you can watch out for them and they can watch out for you.
2) Never put your drink down or leave it unattended.
3) Trust your guts; if it doesn’t feel right, don’t force yourself to do something just to appease your friends.
Many of those tips may seem like common sense. However, common sense tends to get pushed aside for things like drinking alcohol or trying to look “cool.” Don’t sacrifice your safety for your image or peer pressure. Go out, have fun, and meet friends, but most importantly make sure to be safe. For more tips and information on sexual violence, visit RAINN  (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network). For more information, resources, and strategies see the NCPC tip sheet on date rape  or visit ncpc.org .