Walking alone during the day is one thing, but everything seems more menacing at night, especially for women. Many campuses offer self-defense classes, often free, and maybe even for a physical education credit. Investing your time in a course that will teach you how to defend yourself in case the unthinkable happens is one way to feel more prepared. The best thing you can do to stay safe, however, is to walk home with a group of people, but there are steps you can follow to ensure your safety when walking alone.

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Tell someone where you are and when to expect you home.

If you live with roommates or your parents, shoot them a text saying that you’re walking home through campus and will be there in however many minutes. If you live alone, text your best friends. Let them know when you make it home safely and make sure they have a plan if they don’t hear from you.

Walk in well-lit areas on sidewalks that are commonly used and heavily trafficked.

The more likely you are to be seen, the less likely it is that someone will attack you.

Don’t talk on the phone or listen to music when you’re walking home at night.

It will make you less aware of your surroundings and distract you from suspicious activity. Similarly, try not to text too much, as it will keep your eyes on your phone instead of on your surroundings.

Don’t be afraid to change your route.

Trust your instincts. If you see something strange ahead of you, change directions. Don’t necessarily turn around and walk the opposite way (unless that is your only choice), since it might draw unwanted attention. Instead, take a left or a right to avoid walking into an uncomfortable situation.

Call for a walking companion.

Some campuses provide companion services for students who do not want to walk alone. The University of Texas at Austin, for example, has SURE Walk, an organization that provides two companions (one male and one female) to any student who doesn’t want to walk home alone between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. on weeknights. The University of Wisconsin, Madison, offers SAFEwalk, which also provides two companions to students who would prefer escorts on their walks home in the evening and at night. Check to see if your college campus offers a free companion service. Students may also be allowed to call campus security services if they feel unsafe and would like an escort.

Hold your head high.

Be confident; walk with your shoulders back and your head held high. Don’t look at the ground or look away from people when you pass them, but meet their eyes for a second and then continue on your way. If you are confronted, make noise and call attention to yourself. If you’re being followed, change your route so that you are walking through populated areas and then call for help.

If you’re drunk or on drugs, call a friend or a taxi.

Walking home alone after a party in which you participated in alcohol or drug use is a bad idea. Your reaction time, perception of distance, and judgement will all be affected by substance use, and you cannot guarantee your own safety. Call a friend for help or call a taxi for a ride home. Do not try to walk by yourself.

Call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Do not wait. Do not call your mom. If there is an emergency happening, you need to call the police as fast as possible.

Use an app.

There are a variety of apps that you can download to your phone that will allow you to notify friends or family that you are walking alone, where you are, and if you get into any trouble. You can find a list of these apps here.

Page last updated: 12/2016