University takes some getting used to but once warm greetings, good music and fun times start to seem more familiar, it’s easy to drop your guard and begin to feel more uninhibited. But this free and easy attitude, while conducive to a friendly learning environment, also presents a darker opportunity for physical and sexual assault.

Statistics compiled by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA) found that one in four college and/or university women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career. A 1997 study at Stanford University found that 1 in 10 female students reported that dealing with a sexual assault was a “major unmet need” for them.

“When you’re first here it’s just normal to trust everyone at the party,” one McMaster University student candidly stated, “but the older you get, [the more] you realize how wrong things could’ve gone. Unfortunately, I found that out a little too late.”

In many cases, alcohol consumption places a significant role in sexual and physical assault. The same NYSCASA study which uncovered the statistic above also found that “on average, at least 50 per cent of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use.” This is a staggering number.

On the other hand, we must remember not to be hysterical or terrified. There are some easy-to-follow tips that help prevent assault in a post-secondary environment. Don’t assume that the very intoxicated first year has a safe way home; ensure they have proper, safe transportation to their home. Don’t assume that your friend decided to leave early just because she was tired; communication is key. Don’t assume that you don’t need anybody to watch your back; a buddy system, especially for young females, can offer extra protection. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, don’t get “blackout drunk”; that only guarantees a nasty hangover the next day, and possibly more tragic consequences.

The facts regarding campus assault can be alarming, but they shouldn’t paralyze you with fear. Instead of being scared, be safe.