The day I packed my bags to move into the dorms, my parents gave me a pink bottle of pepper spray and told me to always keep it on me. At first I was a bit confused as to why I needed it but that might have been because I lived a sheltered life at home. It seems as if women are taught to be fearful from the time we are young.
Sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient,”according to the United States Department of Justice. “Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”
I’ve been told to always be aware of my surroundings and to engage in a visible phone conversation while walking alone. The advice makes sense after the few fearful encounters that I’ve had.
My most recent experience was when a man made several U-turns to stare me down while I was walking a block away from my house. His actions were enough to make me feel uncomfortable until I reached my bus stop destination. Unfortunately, I have witnessed this type of behavior more than once.
Women not only have to be careful while walking alone but also during events where alcohol is involved. We are told not to leave our drinks unattended for fear that they will be spiked with drugs putting ourselves at risk. Women in general are made to feel they should be a lot more cautionary than men in every situation that they encounter.
During an event for the council on Women and Girls, President Barrack Obama said an estimated 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted while attending college. This number does not take into account the sexual assaults that go unreported.
Since it was reported that a woman was sexually assaulted on campus earlier this month, the late-night walk across campus brings a chill to my skin. Not only do I have to be careful when I’m walking down the street but also when I’m on campus, a place where I should only have to worry about my studies. It is good to know that resources like the C.A.R.E Program, which provides escort services on campus, are established for those who feel uncomfortable walking alone at night.
Women are not the only ones who are under the risk of being sexually attacked, Yet we are constantly reminded that it is our duty to be aware of our surroundings whenever we are alone. It is saddening that women are nervous about walking alone. We should be able to walk in our neighborhoods and on campus without the fear of one day being attacked. It is necessary for women and men to unite, empower one another and put an end to sexual violence.