Keys held tightly between my knuckles – a false sense of protection – I start the run back to residence, hoping that the sooner I walk through the doors, the sooner I will be safe from predators and harmful strangers. I have felt fear before – it is natural not only as a human being, but especially as a woman. Before this month, however, I had never felt this kind of fear in small, peaceful Sackville.
Recently, there have been a number of burglaries and incidents of breaking and entering at student homes off campus. Women have looked out their window late at night to find a man looking back at them. Moreover, there have been instances in residence of male students taking advantage of female peers in vulnerable situations.
Sitting in Gracie’s, alone, anxiety creeps over me. Not about my assignment due tomorrow or about my midterm coming up in a few days, but about the possibility of someone walking in and hurting me. This may sound like an overreaction to some, but with recent events in the community, my sense of security on campus and around Sackville has been turned upside-down.
A mass email was sent out to all students and faculty about the burglaries several weeks ago, yet the other situations that have targeted women especially seem to have slipped under the radar. It is only through the grapevine and, more specifically, from female classmates that I have heard about strangers who have been looking through people’s windows and breaking into their rooms.
My fear of violence does not stem solely from what is happening off campus. I have heard talk of male classmates betting over who can film the “best sex tape” without the consent of their partners and snapchats being taken of women in vulnerable positions without their knowledge. The doors of our residences are nothing more than an illusion of safety because some of the most humiliating and dehumanizing things occur within their walls – and they are rarely talked about. All of these incidents contribute to a feeling of insecurity many women feel while on and off campus. I am definitely not the only person who is terrified.
Last year there were incidents of drink spiking at the Pond, but no official warning was released. Why was no email sent to students about this incident or any others? If our physical and mental safety are at risk, we deserve to be made fully aware of the situation.
Women are constantly told about ways to “protect” themselves. We are told to be conscious of our clothing, our body language and how much we are drinking. I am tired of this being my responsibility. I should be able to live my life however I like without the constant fear of violence looming in the back of my mind. I should be able to walk home at night with shorts on, sleep in my room peacefully, and enjoy sex without fear that I will be hurt or violated.
It should not be our responsibility as women to protect ourselves. I think it is time for men to step up and educate themselves about gender-based violence and why taking non-consensual pictures of women is absolutely wrong. The university should take these issues seriously, inform students properly and work to prevent this harmful behaviour. While it is easy to condemn off-campus burglaries, we must also speak up when Mt. A students contribute to our sense of insecurity, vulnerability and fear.