Halloween weekend can be a time to have fun and celebrate with friends. Celebrations that involve alcohol and other substances can also make it easier for problematic behaviors and unwelcome advances to go unnoticed. 

Here are a few tips to help you have a safer Halloween weekend out with friends. 

1.  Respect your friends’ limits 

Halloween can be a time for many people to get out of their comfort zones by dressing up, feeling the adrenaline rush of a haunted house or attending parties off campus. However, there are also a number of Halloween traditions that can make people feel uncomfortable or unsafe, like being grabbed in a haunted house or maze or agreeing to attend a party where they don’t know many people. It's important to keep in mind that things that may feel fun to one person may be too uncomfortable or risky for someone else. 

If a friend expresses hesitancy to participate in a particular activity or event, let them know you support their decision. Letting your friends know that you will support them even if they don’t join in can go a long way in building trust and respect.  

Additionally, it can be hard for any of us to know what new situations are past our limits until we are in it. This is because we may feel pressure to dismiss our body’s cues in order to be accepted or go with the flow. If a friend wants to leave halfway through a haunted house or in the middle of the party, listen to what they’re feeling. If they need help getting out of a situation, make a commitment to leave together or as a group. 

2. Pay attention to sketchy situations

Dressing up is a cherished part of celebrating Halloween. However, this tradition can also be infused with problematic stereotypes and attitudes. For this reason, it’s important to notice when people are using outfit and costume choices or alcohol or other drugs as an excuse for groping, non-consensual touching and other inappropriate comments or behaviors. 

Watch out for individuals who: 

  • Coerce or pressure someone to use alcohol or drugs or consume more than they are comfortable with. 
  • Initiate sexual contact because they think the other person is intoxicated and/or less likely to resist. 
  • Isolate someone who has had too much to drink or is having a negative drug experience.  
  • Don't tell someone what is in their drink or the type of dosage of drug they are ingesting. 
  • Dress up, use accents or mock individuals or groups based on their identity. 

3. Brainstorm ways to help 

It’s okay to intervene or interrupt a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, even if you’re not sure you’re reading it correctly. If someone’s behavior seems aggressive, weird or makes you uncomfortable, don’t ignore it. 

Offering help in these types of situations can feel awkward in the moment, so it can be helpful to think of ways to help that feel realistic for you to try. This can include enlisting the help of trusted friends to ensure a person gets home safely or can get out of a situation. Check out the Don’t Ignore It website to explore support resources, strategies for bystanders and reporting information. 

4. Keep track of your friends 

Make a commitment to stick together and agree on how you will meet back up if you get separated. This lessens the chances that someone in your group will have to rely on lesser-known friends or strangers to get home, which can also reduce the chances of something bad happening. 

It’s also important to establish a way to check in with each other. Save each other’s phone numbers and consider starting a group chat so you can communicate in case someone needs help. You’ll want to make sure that everyone has their sound on so you don’t miss any important notifications from the group. 

Finally, make sure everyone knows where you’re all planning to go. Google and Apple Maps are a great way to make sure everyone ends up where they’re supposed to be. If you do get separated in a crowd, try using the “share my location” feature with the group so they can find you and regroup. If plans change, make sure everyone knows and is in agreement.

5. Have an out 

It’s perfectly okay to decline an invitation to do something if it doesn’t feel right. Remember that you can always make up an excuse to get out of an uncomfortable situation or leave a party if it feels like it’s too much or is getting out of hand.  

If you want to go home or leave a particular party, let your friends know you’re ready to go and ask someone to go with you. Remember that you can always make an excuse to leave a party, event or situation. For instance, you can say that you have work in the morning, a family emergency or that you aren’t feeling well. 

Support resources 

Resources are available for students who have experienced identity-based harassment or sexual misconduct, want to support friends and survivors, or want to learn more about prevention. Students often reach out to friends or family members first when something bad happens. Having the skills to respond effectively without blame or judgment is important to keep in mind. Learn more skills for supporting your friends after a traumatic event. 

Here are some resources available to support those who have been affected. 

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination, and identity-based harassment. 

Confidential resource

Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC)

OIEC offers educational sessions and implements university policies and processes around sexual assault, intimate partner abuse and stalking, and other forms of discrimination and harassment. If you or someone you know at CU has been impacted, reports can be filed online. Anonymously reporting is an option as well.

Don't Ignore It

Explore your options for seeking confidential support, reporting concerns and learning skills for helping others. If something seems off, it probably is—don't ignore it.

Mandatory reporting policy 

All university employees who have the authority to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, grade, formally advise or direct faculty, staff or students are considered "responsible employees" and are required to report alleged misconduct to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). This includes, but is not limited to resident advisors, teaching assistants, professors, graduate instructors, academic advisors, coaches or other university employees with supervisory authority. 

Any sexual misconduct, intimate partner abuse (including dating and domestic violence), stalking, protected-class discrimination or harassment, or related retaliation disclosed to a responsible employee must be reported to OIEC. The person impacted has the choice about whether and how they want to proceed. Reporting is required to help ensure that people impacted by misconduct understand their rights and options and the resources available. 

Note: Confidential campus resources are exempt from CU Boulder’s mandatory reporting policy, including the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA), Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) and Ombuds.

Learn more about mandatory reporting

Published: Oct. 25, 2023