Walk faster. Keep going. Faster.
There were only three more blocks, but with the tenacious pounding in my chest and the catch in my breathing, it felt more like ten. Tripping over my own fearful feet, I grab my phone and see it’s 9:46 p.m. Looking back up, I feel blinded by the creeping darkness and notice more than my own shadow trailing behind me. Readying my defense, I place the edge of my dull key in between my fingers, knowing it would never be enough.
Don’t be a baby, there’s nobody there. Walk faster.
Should I call my mom? Should I even be on my phone? Should I tuck my hair in my coat so it can’t be the leash that’s used to pull me down into the dark? Should I run?
Lights cloud my vision on the right as I realize I really am not alone. The small car zooms up forcefully to the stop sign in front of me, making its presence and power known. Please don’t slow down, just go past me. Just keep walking, keep looking forward, keep breathing.
This fear is real.
Every Tuesday, towards the end of my nightly student organization meetings, I feel the density of my decision to walk back to my off-campus home alone. At 20 years old – although my fear of the dark feels silly and juvenile – the terror of what could happen to me as a young woman walking home from campus is what chills me to the bone.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October or November.
In the first two months of this school year, there have been three sexual assaults on UW-Whitewater’s campus. In the past three years, the numbers have been steadily rising as each individual case holds its own significance. How about what’s happening to all students on the dark streets off campus? What about the cases that are unheard of, unreported, unrepresented?
If you’ve been a victim or if you’re scared of becoming one there are people who are ready to listen and help you process what you’re experiencing, the University Health and Counseling Services is professionally equipped to tackle your worries and can be contacted for appointments at 262-472-1300.
If you are walking home and are ever afraid for your safety, call the Sexual Assault Prevention Service line for UW-W at 262-472-1305.
This fear is real.
I am scared to walk alone at night off-campus. I discredit this and justify it to others as the horror film-esque terror of the dark. If you’re afraid to walk home by yourself at night, you’re not the only one. If you’ve left home and come back having experienced something traumatic like sexual assault, you’re not alone.
This is our fight, we need to do more to push back against the prevalence of sexual assault here in Whitewater. Speak up and join the movement ‘It’s On Us’ to raise awareness for sexual assault and to continue to look for ways to support survivors. I shouldn’t need to suck it up and put on a brave face just to travel three more blocks home. You shouldn’t need to either.
Your fear is real.