It was the night after Labor Day, the official start of classes. A friend of mine and I were catching up, as we hadn’t seen each other since the end of the previous semester.
The weather was sticky and hot; moisture clung to my skin like a fur coat. Scents of late summer stung my nostrils; rain, asphalt, and something like barbecue. Distant car horns and closer train whistles clanged in my eardrums, but in a comforting & familiar way.
Before I knew it, we’d walked to the opposite side of campus from my car.
“Hey, do you want a ride to your car?”
“No, I think I’ll be fine.”
She hesitated, and I’m so thankful she did. Somehow, in that moment, the distance between me and my car seemed insurmountable.
It was clear that we were thinking the same thing as I stared into the distance. What if something happened? What if someone saw an opportunity and took it? What if my life changed irrevocably in those few minutes?
“Actually, it’s kind of dark…”
“Yeah, it is.” she agreed, and we continued walking, now with a purpose, to her car. “Sorry about the mess, half of it is mine, half of it is my boyfriend’s…”
She took me to my car, which probably would have been a ten minute walk on my own, but I felt so much better that I hadn’t had to do it alone.
To an outsider, this story might seem anticlimactic. Sorry to say, I didn’t become a victim of those especially heinous crimes investigated by Olivia Benson on Law and Order: SVU.
Actually, no. I’m not sorry. I’m grateful that I didn’t end up at a crime scene.
I shouldn’t have to say that.
It doesn’t matter that my graduate school is a private Catholic college.
“A Catholic school identity does not stop sexual assault. Policies against sexual intimacy don’t stop assault.”
It doesn’t matter that it’s located in a well-to-do suburban area.
Newsflash: crime can happen anywhere.
It doesn’t matter what I was wearing, or whether I’d been drinking.
(FYI: shorts and a t-shirt and not a drop of alcohol, thank you very much.)
What does matter is that I’m a young woman, and because of the current administration, I don’t feel safe walking across campus by myself.
There have been several instances that I’ve considered calling an escort from campus public safety. However, I’ve never done it because I’m afraid I won’t be believed.
And if I’m afraid I won’t be believed, what does that say about actual victims?
Fortunately, I’ve never been a victim of sexual assault. Whether I’ve been a victim of harassment is debatable, but that’s not an article for today.
The fact of the matter is that I can’t cross my graduate school campus at night because I’m afraid of what might happen to me because I’m a woman. Go ahead. Tell me I’m being dramatic.
I dare you.