Carina Pacheco ‘23 is a history major and a native of New Jersey. She is a part-time barista and a full time dog lover. In addition to contributing to The Flat Hat, Carina is a member of the club lacrosse team and the Young Democrats club. Email Carina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
Campus after Dark: We have a very dark campus, whether that’s on nearby roads or even just paths on campus. Do you feel safe? Do you have recommendations to solve this issue, if there is one?
You hear it all the time, especially from one woman to another: “Are you walking home alone? Do you have someone to go with you?” “I don’t feel comfortable walking alone.” ”Let someone drive you instead of walking by yourself.”
All children, and young girls in particular, are taught the “buddy system” from a young age: never go anywhere alone, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t talk to strangers — very simple.
Despite my privilege growing up in a safe neighborhood, I have always been very personally disturbed by the inescapable horrors on the news. Abductions, house invasions, women attacked while jogging and countless other instances of senseless violence. They remind me that so much of the violence we hear about is, in many cases, gendered.
Women, especially non-white women, are constantly aware of the violence that we face everyday and have no choice but to remain vigilant at all times, regardless of how familiar we are with our location.
I know very well that I am not alone in my anxiety walking home from Swem or Campus Rec, for example, when night falls. Especially now that I live off-campus, my path home is dimly lit by street lights which are too few and far between. I carry pepper spray now, which is common among women my age, especially in a collegiate setting, and see the distinctive keychain dangling from the keys and wallets of dozens of my peers daily. If the College were to take a survey of women who feel comfortable walking alone at night, I would be very curious about the results. A 2016 article from the Michigan Daily which surveyed students at the University of Michigan found that over 73 percent of the participants in the survey were identified as being “afraid to walk home alone on campus.” While the College of William and Mary is not as expansive as the University of Michigan, I believe that fear of safety is a universal concern, especially for collegiate women.
This shared fear for our safety is a direct result of pop culture, news sources and entertainment media. The last decade or so has seen a huge increase in demand for true crime dramas, which more or less often romanticize and fetishize violence against women. Women are found naked, tied up, beaten dead: “porn bleeding into entertainment,” Doon Mackichan said, quoted in Zoe William’s 2021 article in The Guardian.
So, it’s no wonder that women are afraid to walk home alone at night, even if no local precedent has been set telling them that there actually is something to be afraid of. In all forms of media, women are victims of monstrous violence, real or fictional. Violence against us has created national followings, like the Gabby Petito case. There is so much anger, frustration and fear: we are afraid because we are women, and because we are women we are afraid. I know I speak for a large number of students at the College when I ask that these concerns be addressed, firstly by the addition of new street lamps to make sure that campus is well-lit at all times of night. By making us feel safer, we can become even better members of the community.