Hello, gentlemen of St. Mary’s! I probably don’t need to be telling you this, as you are all so PC and aware of women’s issues and such, but I thought now would be as good a time as any to offer a a gentle reminder to be conscious of the paranoia some women feel while walking on campus alone at night. Even on a relatively safe, in-between-a-river-and-a-field-of-bamboo-nowhere campus like St. Mary’s, women are still on the alert for predatory figures on campus, especially after the disturbing rash of assaults we had last semester. It’s a sad statistic, but most sexual assaults happen to women (according to RAINN [Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network], nine out of 10 victims of rape were women in 2003), and most of their attackers are men. However, I do not want to vilify men and victimize women by making this a direct exhortation to men to be solely responsible for making women feel safer on campus; ladies need to know how to handle these situations as well (know where the Blue Lights are, have P.S. on speed dial, know some basic jiu jitsu moves). So in the interest of making everyone feel safer on campus, here are a few pointers on the etiquette of walking around campus at night without causing undue worry to your SMCM sisters (heck, even brothers).
1.) Crossing Over
The classic scene from about half of the episodes of Law & Order: SVU: a woman is walking down a dark street, when suddenly a shadowy silhouette appears and begins to walk towards her. If you are walking down the path one night and realize that you are that shadowy figure, do the lady a favor and walk on the far side of the path, or even cross to the other side of the road if possible to make it clear that you don’t have any intention of harming her. It’s a little gesture that can do wonders for someone’s feeling of well-being.
2.) Headgear Horror
Sometimes wearing a hat or hood can conceal someone’s face a bit too much. I realize that we have recently been experiencing bitingly cold weather that necessitates bundling up your ears and face. However, if you find yourself passing a woman at night while wearing some identity-obscuring piece of clothing, hold your head up a bit straighter and make your face visible. If she can see your face, she is more likely to A.) recognize you as an upstanding member of society or B.) feel that you are trustworthy if you are willing to reveal your face as a way to say “I’m okay with you knowing what I look like”–otherwise, she might suspect that you have a shady reason for concealing yourself, i.e. not being identified in a police line-up.
3.) Call Your Momma
To subdue someone’s fears even more, you can always use a ruse. Pull out your phone and pretend to be updating your mom about how much of a boss you’re being at college. Maybe throw in a line about how you plan to go visit a local nursing home to play bridge with the residents, or how you’re so happy that your WGSX class has turned you into a staunch campaigner to end domestic violence.
4.) Loosen Up
Simply relaxing your arms, shoulders, and legs can create the impression that you are not interested in making sudden movements or anxious and tense about doing something morally ambiguous. Swing your arms back and forth like you don’t have a care in the world, and the woman walking past you won’t either.
5.) Keeping a Safe Distance
If you find yourself walking behind a woman at night, make sure you stay a good distance behind her (about 30 feet or so) and keep your steps even. Quickening or slowing your steps can be a signal to her that you are preparing to pounce. If you are a little too close, just pass in front of her very casually so she knows you’re headed somewhere else.
I hope that you find these tips useful in keeping our campus atmosphere safe and relaxed. As said by Alastor Moody: “Constant vigilance!”