The Real Danger in Stranger Danger: who we choose to be afraid of and why

Bursting the Bubble, Segment 2.

When people talk about the “Marquette Bubble” the first image that comes to my mind is an overprotective mom or dad wrapping their child in bubble wrap before they head out the door for a pick-up soccer game. A decent pair of shin guards would suffice, but instead the child now looks ridiculous- with the bubble wrap restricting his mobility and keeping him from really playing.

In a way, I don’t see us students being all that different from a bubble wrapped child. The first layer of this bubble wrap?

Stranger danger.

To be clear, I have no issue with “stranger danger” being taught to children. Unfortunately, child abduction is a real problem. And with the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain responsible for judgment not fully developed in children, it makes it hard to impossible for them to make decisions about was is and is not safe. Stranger danger then becomes a useful tool in the mentality of “better safe than sorry.” If a child cannot distinguish a dangerous person from a safe one, then they should not talk to strangers altogether to avoid risk altogether.

The problem is that now our brains are fully developed and we do have the ability to distinguish dangerous situations, but for some reason we still hold on to “stranger danger” mentality. We've thrown out “bed times” and curfews- but not the idea that anyone we don’t know could have the intent to harm us.

The second layer of bubble wrap:

A narrowed perspective of crime.

“How safe is this campus?” A question that I’m sure every tour guide has been asked in every single tour they've ever given. When this question is asked by a concerned parent, I would bet they are most often thinking more about residents living in the surrounding area, than the students on campus.

This narrowed perspective is further instilled by DPS text alerts and emails. I want to preface by saying I do not mean to discredit the work of DPS. They play an integral role in our university and help to both maintain and further safety on our campus. While the text and email alerts do warn students of potential danger in a time sensitive and immediate fashion, they don’t tell the full story of crime on our campus- resulting in an implicit instruction of who we should be afraid of.

In doing some research on this issue I decided to call DPS to ask them about their reporting policy. As I called up the Non-emergency phone number I appreciated that we have a safety system that is so accessible and the fact that it didn't matter that I was calling 5pm on a Sunday (a time that most other professions would have set aside as family or football). While on the phone with one of the officers, I asked why we never really hear about student crimes on campus. The officer told me that the purpose of the text/email alerts is to call attention to cases that threaten non-discriminately or could put others in danger. He then went on to say that there are many student crimes, but they are usually seen as “case by case.” If every DPS report was sent as a text alert, then students would be getting messages way too frequently and would be less likely to pay attention to the most important. The officer then mentioned that for full reporting, students should reference daily log or the Marquette Tribune.

Curious about student crimes, I looked up the 2013 DPS Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. What I found was very interesting. While there were 10 cases of robbery on campus and on public property, there were 8 cases of burglary in the residence halls. Furthermore, DPS reported 8 incidents of sexual offense- 6 of which took place in residence halls. This fact tells us that most cases of sexual offense are committed by one student against another. Also, the other 2 incidences of the statistic weren't necessarily non-MU students; they may have been students that committed sexual offense in areas outside of residence halls, such as apartments and Greek Life housing.

If last year’s statistic wasn't eye-opening enough, you can take a took at this year’s. According to the Marquette Tribune, In a week’s span from November 15th to 21st, there were 3 sexual assaults reported in the residence halls-1 in McCormick Hall and 2 in Mashuda. From the first semester we are on campus we all sit through the presentation on sexual violence. In the presentation we are all taught that sexual violence is most common between people of the same race, and between people that know each other.

Why is it then that we rarely consider other students as possible sources of danger?

Now my solution to this issue is not to abolish DPS text alerts, because they are valuable in reporting immediate threats. What I will argue is that us students need to be better about obtaining enough information. Without the full picture we unjustly discriminate against who we should be afraid of, but also leave ourselves unaware and vulnerable to other students.

The easiest fix to this problem is picking up the Marquette Trib once in a while. Knowledge and awareness of what actually goes on on campus will help shed those irrational layers of bubble wrap and help you keep your (shin)guards up about when, and who you should rationally protect yourself from.

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