Sep 032002
Authors: Ashley Wheeland

What does it mean to be a woman?

It means shaving legs. It means talking to friends. It means nights out on the town. Much later for me it will mean weddings and baby showers.

Being a woman today also means watching out for your own safety. Three percent of college women experience a complete or attempted rape according to the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

Just two summers ago, women in Fort Collins lived with their windows closed and weapons in hand in fear of Troy Graves. This year we have heard stories of peeping Tom’s in dormitory showers and windows. Sometimes, even when we are trying to be safe, we can’t catch everything. For some time, women on college campuses have been slipped drugs like gamma hydroxybutyrate, to incapacitate them, and in this state, they have been sexually assaulted.

Even though we don’t expect it, we, as women, may find ourselves in dangerous situations.

So with my many years of wisdom as a college student (yeah, right,) I have compiled a small list of advice for the women that live on campus and in the Fort Collins community.

First, make an effort to note your surroundings. Look in the stalls in the bathroom for other people. Look out the window and know how to get in and get out of your home. Many of us don’t realize our windows are open.

Second, set up a system with friends to check safety. My friends and I know each other well enough to know when someone is in trouble. We know when friends may be incapacitated and could be taken advantage of.

It also helps to know your friends’ schedules. I am close enough with my roommate to know when she works, when she is out with friends, or when she is doing schoolwork. I also know her family and friends well enough to contact them in case of any trouble.

Fourth, stay in groups at night. Many times, we believe we are indestructible. However, we can all be hurt, and we can all become victims of an attack. It is worth it to take a short walk to help a friend.

Fifth, do not put yourself in a situation where you may be hurt. Taking risks is not worth the danger. There are many young women who are date raped. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network close to 90 percent of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Until you are comfortable with another person, do not trust them to know your limits.

Last, I think that we should know our own limits. It is a lesson we learn quickly after our first visit with the porcelain God. There are times when we all need to ask for help. There will be times when it feels safer to walk with someone else. There are times when knowing your surroundings may save you from an intruder. Being conscience of yourself and your abilities to protect yourself can help you from letting someone else hurt you.

As women, we have a right to feel safe. However, the reality is that we have to take care of ourselves. So what does it mean to be a woman? To me, it means being strong and realizing my own role in staying safe.

For more information on sexual assault, or to get help if you need it, I suggest going to this Web site: It’s the home page of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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