DS View: Safety

ATTACKS Sexual assault on campus will not be easy to end, but there is more we can do to prevent it.

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It’s been over a week since two UND students, both undergraduate women, were allegedly sexually assaulted in their apartment by a man named Antonio Matthews.

The attack came at an interesting time on campus — this semester being the 10th anniversary of the abduction and murder of UND student Dru Sjodin, who was kidnapped while walking to her car after work at the Columbia Mall.

Coincidentally, this week is also the date of the UND Women’s Center’s week-long Clothesline Project, which aims to spread awareness of domestic abuse and interpersonal violence.

These advocacy initiatives, including the Take Back the Night Rally tonight, are a true and valiant effort by the university to actively participate in putting an end to sexual assaults and other interpersonal abuse. However, in a world where an unlocked sliding-glass door is all that stood between Matthews and last week’s monstrous crime, it is hard to say that we, as a campus, are suitably prepared to prevent further attacks.

While we have come a long way as a community since Dru Sjodin’s murder, there are still changes that need to be made.

Those changes begin with us taking steps to assure our own safety. It is very important that we understand our surroundings and take the necessary precautions to keep ourselves safe. For example, it is always a good policy to have a phone on you while traveling alone. At night, make sure that somebody knows where you are, and if possible, travel with friends.

There are also changes that the culture on campus needs to make. Anyone who uses the word “rape” to refer to anything other than the heinous crime it is, for example, needs to stop. Students, slap your friends when they use the term inappropriately. Sexual assault won’t receive the most complete attention it deserves when the word used to describe it can is also used in nonsensical jokes. We’ll give a million bucks to the first person who can think of something funny about what happened to our fellow students last week.

Many neighborhoods in Grand Forks remain places where leaving doors unlocked at night seems as normal and safe as leaving potted plants on the porch overnight. But we are on a university campus.

It doesn’t matter how peaceful our college town usually is. Each of us are surrounded by 15,249 other students our age; with numbers like that, you just can’t account for everyone.

The annual Campus Lighting Tour, which occurred last month, invited students to add their input as to which areas of campus have inadequate lighting at night. It’s events like these that the student body needs to get excited about. Any situation in which we can collectively acknowledge the existence of sexual assaults and on-campus attacks is a situation from which we can only benefit.

The more we talk about it, the better off we will be.

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