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October 18, 2017

You don’t have to walk alone

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

I’ve always been afraid of the dark. I have slept with a nightlight ever since I was a baby. Before, the fear of the dark was because I was scared of monsters — seems quite silly now. But, now as a college student, I fear walking in the darkness of the night. Why do I fear walking in the dark alone?

As a woman, I was always taught to never walk home alone at night — my grandmother tells me that every time she calls me. I have been taught the sexual assault statistics.  “One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.”

Many women have adopted the attitude “Oh it won’t happen to me,” but then it does happen. It can and it does happen.

So how do you combat this very real fear, especially as a young woman? How can you feel safe to walk at night?

I discovered that UMass has an amazing service. I use it every Sunday night when I am done editing at the Collegian. The service is the Walking Escort Service through Residence Hall Security and the UMass Police Department. They walk students between on-campus locations.

If you have ever been outside at night, you know that the campus is dead once it hits 9 p.m. It is easy to feel uncomfortable walking in the dark alone when there is no one around. Because of that feeling, I began using the service last year after late meetings in the Student Union.

It’s a very easy process. You call the phone number, mentioned at the bottom of this piece, and ask for a walking escort. You then give them your location and where you are going. They will usually also ask for your phone number and a brief description of what you are wearing so they are able to find you. Make sure to give the walking escort 10 to 15 minutes to get to you and they will make sure you get to your destination safely. Everyone at the Collegian knows my weekly routine: I call the walking escort as I make my final edits so I never have to wait for them. It’s a simple minute phone call that makes all the difference.

One night, I was being walked from Southwest back to my dorm in the Honors College. As usual, the monitor knew who I was, where I was going, and where I usually walk from because I use the service so frequently and am one of the only students to use it. On the walk back, it finally hit me. It hit me that at a school with over 20,000 students, I was one of the only people using the service. It also hit me that I had been making excuses and laughing off my peers whenever someone made a comment about being walked to my dorm every week.

I have spent a lot of time over the past year trying to explain myself to my peers. “Oh I’m just a baby and scared to walk alone,” I would tell my friends. During the summer before my senior year, I spent a summer at Harvard. I had many late nights in the library and I would have to beg one of my friends to come get me. I had convinced myself that I was overreacting because no one else seemed to have the same fears as me. I have been told that I shouldn’t be afraid because UMass is safe. I have been told that nothing will happen to me.

But I have also been told that I am smart for taking advantage of the service. After I posted a Facebook status about my experiences with the Walking Escort Service, I had peers thanking me for spreading the word about the service, even those not scared to walk alone at night. I have had peers come up to me and tell me that they are going to use it or have used it.

No one should have to be afraid to walk across their own campus, but if you are, consider using the Walking Escort Service. If you are uncomfortable walking alone, you are not weak and you are not a baby. Your fears are valid. Men and women should feel safe in their environment, and if having someone to walk and talk with you makes you feel safe, go for it.

Thank you Residence Hall Security for making me feel safer on campus and I hope you can make others feel safe as well.

If you need a Walking Escortthey start walking at 8:00pm and 12:00pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; 8:30pm to 2:00am on Thursday; and 8:30pm to 3:00am on Friday and Saturday. UMPD does them at any time of the night. Call (413) 545-2123 and ask for a Walking Escort. They’ll be happy to help.

 

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at ebeuger@umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “You don’t have to walk alone”
  1. David Hunt 1990 says:

    I’m glad the Zoo has this service!

  2. OKC says:

    I wish they had an “escort” service back when I was in school! College would have been a lot more fun! Seriously, though, a great service and volunteers should be commended. Before the days of mobile phones, my friends and I used to do this for our female friends and girlfriends and luckily they made it through without these issues. Kudos to the volunteers!

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