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Ohio State students, police talk spring break safety

Ohio State students vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Ohio State’s 2016 spring break. Credit: Courtesy of Abby Wocher

Spring break is finally here, and many students are replacing Oval Beach with destinations consisting of actual sand and waves.

But as students are flocking south, concerns of sexual assault and robbery are on the mind of some.

“Thinking that we can’t walk home alone at night, or on the first night going out we might not know where our hotel is exactly or how to get back is scary,” said Nora Moriarty, a third-year in marketing who is going to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, said. “(At Ohio State) it’s a lot more comforting because I know the campus well and I know off campus well. But I think going on vacation I think it is definitely on my mind to be cautious of not only myself but also what other people are doing around me because we’re in a place we’ve never been before.”

University Police officer Joanna Shaul, an instructor for Rape Aggression Defense classes provided on campus, said being aware of your surroundings and creating a plan of action is crucial in unknown areas.

“You always want to be aware of your surroundings. That’s just really good life advice generally,” Shaul said. “When you first get some place you’re going to figure out where your hotel is, you’re going to figure out places you’re going to go, you know your travel routes.”

She said saving the local police department’s phone number is a good idea as well, and staying in a group and sticking to a plan is crucial.

“If your plan is five people go out and we’re going to do these things tonight, then the five of you need to stay with that plan and not divert from that,” Shaul said. “There’s a little bit of a social contract there. You’re agreeing to go do these things and it’s incumbent upon all of you to stick to that plan.”

If students were to ever have an uncomfortable altercation with a stranger on vacation, Shaul advised them to stick to their instincts.  She said in RAD classes, she urges students to have a mentality of confidence while maintaining the ability to take situations into their own hands.

“We’re raised in a polite society and we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and we don’t want to tell people no,” Shaul said. “But when you know somebody’s behavior is incorrect, or is unusual to just trust yourself and take action based on that belief.”

Walking with confidence and in a group could be the key to keeping a safe night from turning violent, she added.

“If you have five confident, college-educated young people who are walking with their heads up, with their phones in their pocket, they’re looking around they’re paying attention and they notice somebody who gives them that feeling and they look at them right in the eye, they acknowledge them, then that person is like, ‘Those people know what they’re doing they’re squared away they’re paying attention they know what’s going on,’” Shaul said.

This acknowledgement could then lead to the dangerous person targeting a different person or group, Shaul said.

Brett Myers, a third-year in finance, has some concerns about the safety of his female friends. He is going in a group of ten to Ft. Lauderdale: six women and four men, all students at Ohio State.

The group plans to look out for one another as they hit the beach and nightlife scene, and Myers said he is planning to especially look out for his female friends.

“We always try to make sure everybody is with someone. If we see a girl hitting it off and if we don’t know him, we make sure he’s like a cool dude and make sure that he’s not going to do something bad to her,” Myers said. “We at least talk to him and make sure they’re cool, and keep an eye on him.”

Abby Wocher, a third-year in public affairs is going on vacation with all women. She said her major concerns are getting lost from her group, or realizing somebody is no longer with them. She went to Ft. Lauderdale last year, and is returning next week. Her experience on the beach has made her more confident in what her friends have planned for this year.

“(Last year) we had a couple rooms of girls and our rule of thumb was that each room was accountable for one another, so we made sure we traveled with our rooms and if one girl didn’t want to do something or got too drunk we would go home with them,” Wocher said. “None of us let each other go back to a different hotel with a guy which definitely helped ease our minds about where we were.”

Wocher had some personal items stolen from her on the beach last year — shoes and various items from her drawstring bag she left unattended. She said she was sure to keep any beverages of hers with her at all times, even going as far as bringing coolers into the water with her group.

“I didn’t even want to risk setting anything down, because despite the fact that I know OSU students, there were people from other schools that I didn’t know,” Wocher said. “Especially on the central beach it was so crowded and I probably knew 30 out of 700 people.”

Shaul advised to keep personal belongings and property out of sight if worried about getting items stolen.

“Any student — male or female — can handle themselves just based on their skills right now,” She said. “Whether you’re 95 pounds on your best day or 200 pounds with a whole bunch of training, anyone can be successful at taking care of themselves, regardless of size or stature or experience.”

RAD classes are offered every Tuesday and Thursday this March and at the beginning of April, from 6 to 9 p.m. in Lawrence Tower.

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