I know better than to walk home alone at night.
As a 22 year-old woman living on a college campus — or anywhere for that matter— I’ve heard the horror stories. I know that a female walking alone at night is a target.
This isn’t something I take lightly. After reading Cleary reports, gathering crime statistics and closely following the growing number of assault victims who are filing lawsuits against their universities for mishandling their claims, I know the dangers better than most.
Many women — and men for that matter — end up in situations they never expected.
I know this, and yet, more often than I care to admit, I find myself walking the ill lit paths of Julia Davis Park long after the park officially has closed. And I’m not alone. On any given night I’m joined by half a dozen lone women stumbling, often under the influence of alcohol, towards home.
Perhaps this faulty bravado is compounded by the fact that we live in a seemingly safe corner of society. Things like that don’t happen here, not in quiet little Boise. And if they do, they certainly would never happen to me, or him, or her. I know that thought process. I’m guilty of it myself.
Yet there is a provable fallacy to this kind of thought.
According to a National Crime Victimization Survey, there is an average of 207,754 sexual assaults every year in the United States. That breaks down to roughly one sexual assault every two minutes.
Estimates from a report released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) say that on the average college campus 20 to 25 percent of female attendees will experience some sort of sexual assault during their college career.
Take a minute and think about the people you know. Chances are– and statistics confirm– that you know someone who has been the victim of an assault.
So why do we take the risk?
While everyone needs to be careful, on this campus there is one group at higher risk of sexual assault than any other. The DOJ conducted a recent survey, which told us that of 84 percent female college students who were victims of an assault reported that it happened during their first four semesters.
Freshmen and sophomore women. The same study showed that during the months of September, October and November sexual assaults on college campuses happen with nearly double the frequency of the other months.
As women, we’ve been raised with the idea that to be successful we must be strong, capable and independent. For many, college is the first time we have to assert that independence. And in a society that glamorizes the party lifestyle, YOLO and free flow alcohol this can get dangerously out of control.
The DOJ estimates that 9 out of 10 women assaulted on college campuses know their attacker.
So while you might never forget about those shadows lurking in the dark, you are far more likely to be assaulted by someone you met at last week’s party or that cute friend you agreed to catch up with at the bar.
So be safe out there.
I know, I know. I resent being guided home by a quasi-parent, chaperoned until I’ve been deposited safely on my doorstep too. However, if it spares you that pain of dealing with the aftermath of an assault, it will be worth it.
Guys don’t let your girl friends wander off alone. No matter how much she insists she’s OK. And girls, do the same; for both your friends and yourself. I’m not foolish enough to think that I’ll ever convince you not to go out and party — I was 19 just a few years ago– but be empowered to take of yourself.
Now you know the statistics. Don’t become one.
Before you fall off of your chair, I am not blaming the victim. I too long for a day where women and men can walk alone whenever and wherever they want, dressed however they please. I too am striving for a society where the idea of “rape culture” isn’t even one that enters our vocabulary.
However, I’m not foolish enough to think that we’re there yet, or that it’s something that will change overnight. And I am a firm believer that nothing will change until we start talking about it. So be aware. Talk about it, even when it makes you uncomfortable. Especially when it makes you uncomfortable.
You shouldn’t have to. However knowing that our society has an unfair expectation won’t undo the life-altering effects that sexual assault can have.
If we’re willing to admit there is a chance it might happen to us– that the danger is real–we can protect ourselves.