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.