In light of the horrible events that occurred during Freshers’ week, it’s important for us to take a moment to think about our personal safety. Although some argue that these precautions shouldn’t be necessary as people should know how to behave appropriately towards others in the first place, we cannot pretend that these incidents don’t occur. Okay, I must stress that they are rare, but they do happen. Having said that, do not let these incidents linger in the forefront of your mind and frighten you into not going out. Part of the university experience is going out with your friends and having fun after all. Just always be aware and ask yourself “what steps can I take to be safer?” Here are some things to think about:
Before leaving the house, make sure that your phone is fully charged and that you have minutes/credit to keep in contact with others. It’s always a good idea to store the number of a taxi company in your phone, just in case you are stranded. Drink responsibly while out and always be aware of accepting drinks from strangers and leaving drinks unattended, as this leaves you at risk of being spiked. Personally, I buy all of my own drinks and usually get bottled drinks as you can easily cover the top with your thumb to prevent anything contaminating it.
As winter sets in, it will get darker much earlier in the evenings. As police and university representatives have advised, do not walk anywhere alone at these times. There are several ways to avoid this. Firstly, walk in pairs or groups as there is safety in numbers. Whether you are walking home from late afternoon lectures or from a night out at the pub, ask some friends to drop you off on their way back to their house. Alternatively, make sure you take extra money on a night out in order to get a taxi home. There are several reliable taxi companies that operate around Cardiff, so there should be one available whether you book or get one from the several taxi ranks outside various clubs in the city. The university are also running a ‘safe taxi’ scheme where you can show your student card to a Dragon Taxis taxi driver and pay the fare at a later date at the Students’ Union finance office. However, there have been some problems with taxi drivers refusing to accept student cards and refusing to take people on short taxi journeys so I would strongly advise that you take taxi money with you on a night out to avoid a situation like this. If at any point a taxi driver refuses to take you home, take a photograph of the number plate and make a complaint to the main office.
If you have no other alternative but to walk home, stay on main roads that are well lit for as long as possible. Ensure you notify someone that you are leaving, where you are going to and when you arrive. Having someone forget to text you that they got home can be worrying. If any of my friends have to walk home alone, I stay on the phone with them for the duration of their journey so that I know they are okay. Make sure you constantly ask them where they are so that you can notify the emergency services with your whereabouts quickly if anything did happen. If you feel that you are being followed while walking home, go into the nearest shop or takeaway and explain the situation to staff as they may be able to help you. Also try and book a taxi the rest of the way home if you can.
If you have to get a train home late at night, try and go from a manned, station such as Cardiff central as it is far busier than secluded stops such as Cathays etc. When you are on the train, sit in a carriage where there are several people and ensure that there is someone to meet you when you get off at the other side.
Finally I’d like to stress that this does not only apply to girls. I have heard of cases where boys have been mugged or beaten up by a gang of drunks on their walk home from a night out. Boys tend to forget that they are also at risk because they think they are “too tall” for someone to try hurting them or believe they could handle themselves if something did happen. The reality is that none of that would matter if you found yourself being attacked by a group of people at three o’clock in the morning. Anyone could be at risk.
So please folks, be sensible, be safe!