Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Personal Safety Practices and Knowledge?

Today, the security office at our campus sent out this notice:

"Yesterday evening two female students were studying in the lower level of the library when they were approached by a man who engaged in extremely lewd behavior."

The "lower level" is below ground and houses the majority of the book stacks and some study space, so there aren't many librarians or other employees down there very often. This sort of thing has happened at lots of libraries that I've used, too. Closed, quiet spaces seem to bring out the perv in a lot of people.

The next sentence in the notice, however, bothered me for some reason:

"Personal safety practices and knowledge are your best defense against incidents of this nature."

Exactly how does that address the issue of being accosted sexually? What exactly do they mean by "personal safety practices and knowlege"? It wasn't as if they were taking a short-cut through Central Park in the middle of the night or engaging in any sort of behavior that could lead to those bullshit accusations of "asking for it." The women, students, were studying, at school, in the library.

What more could they have done or known about to defend themselves? Could they have knocked him out with some martial self-defense moves? Tazered him? Maced him? That would have been awesome; but is that what the security office is suggesting?* Or are they indicating that, when such incidents happen, the victims should follow the advice of the final line in the notice?:

"Please report any incidents of this nature to Safety and Security at xxx-xxx-xxxx."

That second sentence about "personal safety practices and knowledge" just seemed sort of perfunctory and unhelpful. Maybe they should rethink it, and indicate more useful procedures because, really, what is the proper response to a strange man whacking off in the library?

*Incidentally, women can take "Self-defense for women" for credit toward a Women's Studies Certificate here. That is pretty awesome.


vuboq said...

perhaps it meant "don't go to the lower level of the library?"

Feminist Avatar said...

Dear Prof,

I couldn't complete my allocated assignment as I can no longer visit the lower level of the library to access the necessary resources. If I did so, and was subsequently the victim of sexual assault, I would no doubt have been asking for it. In future, could you please allocated me topics with reading on a higher level.

Regards, Student.

Ann said...

Yes, women college students are clearly behaving in an irresponsible and provocative fashion when they study in the library!

Way to go, campus police. Like we need to give students any more excuses to avoid the library, and to avoid studying?

laneselfdefense said...

I agree that this letter was poorly written and makes it sound like the women were somehow responsible for this criminal incident. That's just a cop out excuse from campus security from not patrolling an area of campus that really should have been one of their top priority locations!

Wouldn't it have been cool, however, if one of these women WERE carrying some pepper spray and they just maced the guy. That way the authorities would catch the guy and the story of how these women protected themselves would travel around campus and make any pervert think twice before doing something like this again.

Women standing up and protecting themselves! What a novel idea! It's high time we make criminals think twice about the consequences for their actions...

Ann said...

Clio, once again, you've been an inspiration. I've been thinking a long time about campus safety issues for women. I've got some thoughts up now on this at


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