Scenario: Everyone is going out for the night, dressed to the nines. How do you prepare to take on the evening full of alcohol and dancing?
The first thing you think about is not safety, as everyone knows. But in the bigger picture, it really should be at the top of your list. You’ll be happy you did when something goes a little awry.
It’s cold out, but jackets are annoying to deal with at a bar or party. Well, do it anyway. Wear layers. It’s the easiest way to keep warm while still looking slightly fashionable. Wool sweaters and big cotton shirts can be tied, out of the way, around waists. Something waterproof is essential in D.C. The best thing to do is to bring a couple extra dollars and check your coat. A lot of bars have coat checks in the winter – and the fees are nominal, especially when your health is on the line.
GW Student Health nurse practitioner Susan Haney suggests keeping your resistance up. “Get enough sleep,” she said. Understandably, students can’t always get the proper amount of sleep, but if sleep is made a priority it helps keep you healthy. Along with sleep, you need to eat fairly well and stay dry, Haney said.
Because most of us feel so safe on campus, we forget the rest of the city is not quite so safe. Even our beloved Georgetown can be dangerous. The walk back across the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge is a sketchy one, and it would be best to either travel in numbers more than four or take a cab. It evens out to only a couple bucks per person, and, in return, you get door-to-door delivery in the safety and warmth of a D.C. cab. If you are traveling in a pack, still stay in well-lit and well-traveled roadways.
The University Police Department suggests taking an escort van to keep safe whenever possible. Maps of the van’s route are available at UPD in the Woodhull House at 20th and G streets.
Thinking about the very real possibility of getting mugged makes everyone uncomfortable. The University Police Department offers self defense classes. Rape Aggression Defense is a course that incorporates basic techniques from various martial arts into self defense. With 16 cases of robbery in the area reported to Metropolitan Police last year, it’s not wise to consider yourself completely safe. Taking precautions is the key to staying safe.
And then there are the subtly bad people. Always have a little extra money on hand in case you get left behind and need a ride, or if your date happens to forget cash. Have an emergency credit card with you. In case something completely out of your hands occurs, it’s smart to have access to a larger amount of money. But keep the customer service number at home. In the case it gets lost or stolen, you can cancel it immediately.
While most GW students think drinking and fun are synonymous, dangers are inherent in drinking. With hormones raging and inhibitions fleeing, bars are prime arenas for being taken advantage of – on both sides.
Keep an eye on your alcohol level. Remember you always have more fun tipsy than leaning over the ol’ porcelain goddess praying all night. And if you’re traveling with less experienced drinkers, keep an eye on them.
Haney stresses the need to watch friends. A person can be harmed in a lot of ways while out on a Friday night. “Encourage people to know where their limits are,” she said. “If a friend is drinking too much, get them out of the situation and take care of them.
“If you can’t rouse them, it can be an emergency. Let your R.A. know or get them to the emergency room,” she said. “Alcohol can be lethal.”
In the light of the media blitz on the rape drug, it may be wise to be cautious. Sometimes the news can be telling. If the bar seems a little seedy, but you love the atmosphere, keep an eye on your drinks. Try drinking only bottled beers you see the bartender open. If you need to set down a drink to go to the bathroom, get a fresh one.
“Don’t let a friend go home with someone they will regret going home with. Rarely is drunk sex safe sex,” Haney said.
Haney added that safety is important in regards to accidents. Walking home drunk can be dangerous because a person can fall or get hit by a car.
Some of these problems can be avoided by not drinking. “We sometimes make students feel they have to live up to society. They don’t have to,” Haney said. “There are a lot of students who don’t drink much or at all and have a great time.”
This article appeared in the January 29, 1998 issue of the Hatchet.