Culture of Fear: How many Assaults will it Take to Change Things?

(Originally printed September 9th 2014, in the Florida Independent Alligator opinions section)

Shortly after 8:30 Sunday night, the entire UF Student Body received a series of alerts from University Police, warning them of a battery that had just occurred on campus near McCarty Hall. I remember getting UF Alerts during my freshman year and being mildly worried by them.

An armed robbery sounded scary, of course, but these incidents usually happened far from campus. I felt safe while on campus, tucked away in my dorm room.Now, getting a UF Alert sends a jolt of fear down my spine — sharp and sickening.

Where on campus did the assault occur? How many lucky buildings away from me is an unlucky girl talking to the police? Am I safe where I am now? Am I secure?

In the past two weeks, four separate battery and attempted sexual assaults of female UF students were reported. Each time, the incidents have occurred on or extremely close to campus. And each time, I feel a renewed mixture of anxiety and anger.

The question “I’m scared to walk alone now; will you walk home with me?” no longer seems like a paranoid precaution.

Some assaults have occurred frighteningly early in the evening, and I feel suddenly limited and at risk even during the daylight hours.

Females at UF are scared, and with good reason. We run to buy convenient travel-size tubes of mace and pepper spray. We walk from class to class with our keys clutched like knives between our fingers…

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