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3 Tips for Back-to-School Safety Smarts

By JENNIFER CASSETTA

Women on college campus.

1. Always Travel in Packs.
A predator is less likely to attack a pack than a lone wolf. Whether you're studying at the library late at night or heading out to party, make sure to always have at least one or two other people with you. If your campus has an escort service, don't be embarrassed to use it.

2. Be Safe on Social Media.
In my new book, Hear Me Roar: How to Defend Your Mind, Body and Heart Against People Who Suck, co-authored by Lindsey Smith, we dedicate a section to this important and overlooked subject.

Young women are stalked online often without realizing it until the situation has escalated. According to the National Institute of Justice, 13 percent of college women are the victims of a stalking incident.

In 2012, Jenn Gibbons was training to row the entire perimeter of Lake Michigan to raise money for her own charity, Recovery on Water. Her attacker followed her every move on social media, and she was eventually sexually assaulted on her boat in the middle of the night. After this tragic event, she went on to accomplish her goal of rowing 1,500 miles around Lake Michigan. Read more about Jenn's story here.

Be picky about who you communicate with on social media, and never post your real-time location details. Use #latergrams when you want to post one-off events, and do not post locations or "check in" to places that are part of your daily schedule.

3. Home Safe Home.
Whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, make sure you safeguard your home. Keep your doors and windows locked every night and when you leave the house as well. In big cities, it's a safe practice to lock your doors, even when you are home during the day.

If you live in a dorm, chances are there will probably be many people in and out of your room. Even people you may think you know can be tempted to steal. Lock up -- or at least keep out of sight -- your jewelry, cash and other valuables.

Remember, you're not only protecting your stuff, you're protecting your body too. Home break-ins occur every 14.6 seconds across the United States, according to the FBI, and sometimes can lead to sexual assaults as well.

One in four women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her college years, according to the New York State Coalition of Sexual Assault. So if you've never considered training in self-defense, now would be the time. It empowers you to keep safety on your mind and to be strong in your body.

If you’re living alone, I highly suggest getting a safety kit that includes basic safety products such as a personal alarm, door alarm and window alarm.

Personal-Safety Quiz: Take this quick personal-safety quiz to see how safety smart you are.

Do you practice awareness when out and about?
Do you walk and talk on the phone?
Do you always travel at night with a buddy?
Do you lock your car doors as soon as you get into your car or somebody else's?
Do you walk or jog outdoors with headphones on?
Do you lock your doors at home when you leave?
Do you lock your doors at home when you are home?
Are your valuables hidden from view?
Do you post pictures of yourself on social media with your exact location?
Does your body language communicate strength and confidence?Would you know how to protect yourself if you were attacked?

Take a hard look at your safety habits, which, just like muscles, get stronger as you train them.

--Jenn

Readers -- Are you "safety smart"? Have you taken a self-defense class? Did it make you feel safer? What steps do you take -- at home and outside your home -- to be safe? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

Jennifer Cassetta, CN, MS, is an author, speaker, 3rd degree black belt, clinical nutritionist and personal trainer. She works with global business leaders traveling the world as their personal health coach. She just co-wrote her first book, Hear Me Roar: How to Defend Your Mind, Body and Heart Against People Who Suck, which empowers women to be strong, safe and sexy through self confidence, self-defense and nutrition advice. Read more at www.jennifercassetta.com.

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