Watch Out For Yourself – Always
by Cathryn Sloane | University of Iowa
Campus safety is something that is always wildly talked about with implications of concern and seriousness, but it never seems to truly hit home with most students. When we’re out in our college towns, we’re somehow under the impression that we’re in this safe bubble, that we are only with other students as innocent as we are and that nothing dangerous could really happen. At least, this is the perspective I observed in many of my peers.
Due to the ridiculous cautiousness I have always exhibited, I can truthfully say I was never one of those students. With all the stories you hear about random assault, rape and murder, walking alone at night has consistently frightened me like nothing else.
Weekend after weekend, semester after semester, I would see and hear about other female students leaving a bar or a house party late at night to walk home by themselves, and this never failed to stun me. When I say “stun,” I guess I should clarify; it never surprised me, since this is unfortunately so common, but the complete lack of hesitancy these young women tend to show makes me shocked and sad.
I’m not going to say I never walked alone at night, because that would be a lie. Of course, there were times when my destination wasn’t that far away, my path was through a seemingly safe area of town, or I just didn’t want to pay the money for a cab. I was insanely nervous 90 percent of the time I took those lone walks, however, but for some reason I did them anyway. I am just thankful to be able to say I completed them safely.
I sincerely wish I could say the same for Lauren Spierer. A few weeks ago, the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of this Indiana University student rolled around, and it is devastating to say that no answers about her whereabouts have been found in all this time. Her story has broken hearts all over the country, including mine, and I see it has been a wake-up call for a lot of college students, as well. I believe more and more young women are recognizing that any town, however safe it may feel the majority of the time, can still be the setting of something as horrifying as what happened to Lauren.
The thing is, the details of what she was doing leading up to her disappearance prove that this easily could have happened to any of us. Spierer was out at the bars in Bloomington on a weekend night just like any other typical college student. She changed venues throughout the night – again, a common occurrence – ultimately ending up at one of her peers’ apartments, just before she finally left to head home.
This scenario is not rare; many of us have gone through those steps of a night out, except our nights ended with us locking our apartment doors behind us and going to sleep, followed by waking up to a normal day where we could see our friends and talk to our families on the phone. Spierer’s night, instead, ended in a horrible, unsolved mystery.
This is certainly not the first time something like this has happened, and sadly, I do not believe it will be the last. But what students, and people everywhere, for that matter, need to understand is how utterly random and scarily unpredictable life is. Just because the place you’re going is only two blocks away doesn’t mean your chances of getting hurt are slimmer – Spierer’s apartment was only a few blocks away. It only takes a second of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for something to happen.
I absolutely hate that it takes terrible events like this to happen in order to bring people’s attention to the issue, and it makes me even sadder knowing many students lose sight of it whenever they are not reading about or watching the media’s focus on it. As I previously stated, I have always wanted more concern to be shown for campus safety, but this story has not left my mind, and my heart genuinely goes out to the Spierer family.
I know it can feel frustrating or silly at the times to ask someone to walk with you or to just suck it up and call a cab, but it really is worth it. It’s probably easier for me to say now that I’m back in a city where I drive everywhere anyway, but to everyone, please just keep your awareness of reality in check. Let’s prevent tragedies like this from happening again.Cathryn Sloane is a '12 graduate from The University of Iowa with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Creative Nonfiction Writing. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri and has also written for USA TODAY College.