by Emily Rotthaler-Keys between the fingers, pepper spray on the keychain, and sharing one’s live location with a relative or friend. All of these are part of a seemingly unspoken codex of safety precautions women consciously take to protect themselves from possible harassment and attacks by strangers in public.
While a lot of women seem to have forcibly learned to live with catcalling and random stares from men, the fear of being seriously attacked or harassed is more deeply rooted. Even in seemingly safe surroundings there is a small spark of anxiety that someone might just be around the corner waiting to attack.
The fear of being subjected to violence, the thought process around one’s own safety and the amount of worry women have to deal with is not fair and yet it seems like it has become so normal within society that change is only slowly if at all happening.
These principles of fear of violence also in parts apply to the female students of Morningside College campus. Assistant Director of Campus Safety & Security Jerry Meisner said about campus safety, “We live in the real world and things happen. But I do believe that the students are very safe here on campus.”
Indeed, most of the students interviewed indicated they generally feel safe on campus. However, the looming threat that results from never ending news of incidents of violence against women still makes them be aware of their self-defense options in the most harmless situations.
International freshman Eva Geiben, for example, said she takes different precautions in the US than she would at home in Germany. According to her, “It’s not necessarily because of campus. It’s because of the stigma in the US about sex trafficking and rape.”
Sophomore Ashley Duncan said she feels safe on campus for the most part but that she tends to be “sketched out by men in the dark”. She added, “Especially walking in from the parking lots or walking back from any building to Dimmitt in the dark, I keep my keys handy. Or I have my phone on, ready to call somebody.”
Some students even take their safety measures to the next level. Sophomore Makenzie Hunzeker said, “I carry pepper spray, and I share my location with my mom. When I lived in Dimmitt, and I would study in the library until 12 am, I would walk [while talking to] someone on facetime.”
Hunzeker added that even though she takes these precautions she usually feels safe on campus because there are a lot of people around. “If I would scream something like help or fire because I would be in danger, someone would hear me.”
As this shows, there is a lot that goes on in women’s minds when walking alone at night. Wondering if someone would react to a cry of help is only one of many thoughts that constitute a very real fear women have to deal with every day.
Freshman Paige Taylor said, “When I walk at night, I find myself thinking about just getting to my dorm quickly. I check several times to see if someone is following me.” She added that she always has her pepper spray and phone ready in her hand.
Another approach is to avoid dangerous situations altogether. Geiben said she checks for possible dangers when walking alone at night. For her, that means crossing the street when somebody is coming from the other direction and always having a general picture of what is going on around her.
Despite campus being very safe, Meisner recommends carrying pepper spray and emphasizes that it has to be within direct reach. “[Pepper spray] doesn’t do any good in the purse or in the book bag or in the glove box they need to have it with them.”
Another safety measure Meisner recommends is walking with a friend when outside at night because two is better than one when it comes to being safe.