Campus Safety Awareness Month: Personal health and welfare

Campus Safety Awareness Month week 4: Personal health and welfare

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month. The University of St. Thomas Public Safety Department is sponsoring information tables, a poster series, other events, and safety tips and information, like those listed below.

From St. Thomas' Public Safety Department


Ireland Residence Hall Area Director Bryan Helminiak once again will put on another "Mythbusters" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium. The program will address the realities and consequences of excessive drinking and having to take a Preliminary Breath Test. All community members are welcome.

In the state of Minnesota, it is illegal for someone under 21 years of age to possess and consume alcohol outside of their home. It is also illegal for someone over 21 to provide alcohol to someone under 21 for their consumption.

University of St. Thomas policy follows the same guidelines. People who are over 21 may possess and consume alcohol in their rooms on campus, but may not provide it to anyone under 21 years of age and may not drink in public spaces. Students under 21 who are caught in possession of alcohol face consequences that may include a meeting with their hall director, the dean of students, citation by the St. Paul Police Department, fines or other possibilities. Students providing alcohol to minors also will face discipline by authorities.

Alcohol consumption affects your judgment, so you may do something after you’ve had a few drinks that you might not otherwise do. For example, 60 percent of college women with sexually transmitted diseases were infected by their partners while they were under the influence of alcohol.

If your partner is under the influence of drugs or alcohol they cannot legally give consent to any sexual acts. Unfortunately, while many people fear “date rape drugs” being added to their drinks, fewer are aware that alcohol is the first drug of choice for a predator to use to subdue his or her victim.

Alcohol consumption can have other dangers, as well. It slows your reaction time to emergency situations, and can prevent you from noticing a crisis at all. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in over 50 percent of adult fire fatalities, the victim was under the influence of alcohol. In many of these cases, the victim was smoking or cooking food and passed out, leaving the cigarette to start a fire on the furniture or in a waste basket, or the oven or stove to set fire to food.

If you are over 21 and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is 0.08 or higher (0.04 in a commercial vehicle) and you are in control of a moving or parked vehicle, you can be arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). If a law enforcement officer can prove that alcohol caused you to commit driving errors, you can be convicted of DWI at lower alcohol concentrations. If you are under 21, you cannot have any alcohol in your system when operating a motor vehicle. Possible legal consequences for driving under the influence include loss of driving privileges, fines, probation or jail time.

Last year in Minnesota, alcohol-related crashes killed 255 people at an estimated economic impact of nearly $280 million.

See the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Web site for more information.

IT DOES HAPPEN … Kevin Price founded Bucknell University’s organization against drunk driving when he was a student. In 1995, after consuming 10 beers in less than 2 hours, he drove drunk and killed 5 people when he struck a passenger van. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison. From prison, he participated in a number of outreach and prevention programs to keep other people from making the same mistake he did. After serving approximately 6 years, Price was released and is now on probation. Price continues to actively participate in outreach and prevention programs, but is not allowed to leave the state of New Jersey without proper authorization.


It is against Minnesota law and UST policy for anyone to use or possess illegal drugs on campus. This includes marijuana, other illegal substances, and prescription medication not prescribed to you. Students caught in violation of this policy face severe disciplinary action.

Minnesota state law defines “selling” drugs as, “to sell, give away, barter, deliver, exchange, distribute or dispose of to another, or to manufacture;” or, “to offer or agree to perform” any of the acts listed; or, “to possess with intent to perform” the acts listed.

Domestic violence

Domestic abuse and violence is a very real problem that affects everyone. It can involve emotional or psychological abuse, physical assault or sexual assault. You may be in an abusive relationship, or someone who you work with, have class with, or live near may currently or in the past have been in an abusive relationship, whether it was a boyfriend, husband or other intimate partner. Surveys show that 30 percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her boyfriend or husband in the last year. Most often the victim of abuse is female, but not always. Young people, 16-24 years old, consistently experience the highest per capita rates of intimate partner violence.

It can be difficult for abused people to get themselves out of those abusive relationships. For a married couple, there may be children involved that the victim wants to stay with or protect, or finances that the victim depends on. In marriages and other relationships, the victim has emotional ties to the abuser. Often the abuser tries to cut off the victims ties to the outside world by limiting social time, demanding an account of where the victim has been, or following the victim around to monitor them. As a result, victims may not know where to turn to get help. Here are some resources for you to use if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship:

On campus:
Personal Counseling: (651) 962-6780

Student Health Services: (651) 962-6750

Public Safety: (651) 962-5100 (Emergency at 962-5555)

Off campus:
St. Paul: Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

St. Paul: Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project
1 (800) 313-2666 crisis line

Minneapolis: Harriet Tubman Center
(612)825-0000 crisis line

There are many other resources around the Twin Cities and Minnesota.

There is a strong correlation between domestic violence and alcoho
l use; however, there is no proof of a cause-effect relationship. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and may shorten tempers, so people inclined to abuse may do so more readily after having consumed alcohol.

Violence/abuse in the workplace

Domestic violence results in $727.8 million in lost productivity and 7.9 million paid workdays lost each year. This comes from medical leave to recover from injuries, time spent with lawyers or in court, and other time lost at work due to abuse. Each year $4.1 billion is spent on medical and mental health care for victims of intimate partner violence.

Of the total, 74 percent of employed battered women are harassed by their partner while they are at work; this may include phone calls and unexpected/unwelcome visits. Eighty percent of women who are stalked by a former partner report being physically assaulted by that partner, and 30 percent report being sexually assaulted by that partner. 

More than 29,000 sexual assaults with female victims occur at the victim's workplace each year.  Sexual assaults by strangers are more likely to be reported than sexual assaults by acquaintances including intimate partners, especially when the assailant is the abuser in an abuse situation.

Visit the St. Thomas Human Resources Web site for more information about sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Personal safety

People can make themselves safer just by making smart and healthy choices. The best way to avoid finding yourself in a vulnerable situation is to avoid putting yourself there. How do you carry yourself? Do you present an easy target? Do you attract unnecessary attention? Do you carry removable belongings or flaunt valuable items?

Attitude – Don’t present yourself as a target. People who look vulnerable are more likely to be victimized. Be alert and look assertive, don’t convey helplessness or weakness.

Awareness and avoidance – Good awareness enables you to avoid walking into a bad situation. Recognize unusual or alarming behaviors in others. Know your environment; can you get out of an uncomfortable setting quickly? What are your exits and escape routes? Trust your intuition. It’s there for a reason. If you sense danger, take immediate action and leave. Don’t worry about feeling foolish; do something.

Assess – Do you have potential threats in your life? If so, contact the proper authorities and get help. What are your consumption habits? If you use drugs and alcohol, you impair your ability to keep yourself safe and make yourself a potential target. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you get regular exercise? Eat regular healthy meals? Routinely get enough sleep? A healthy lifestyle is a significant part of your personal safety.