An Education In Danger

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The campus was an oasis in middle of the trees in Massachusetts. Its stone buildings, relics of a by gone era, were reassuring reminders of an insulated environment steeped in tradition and religion; it was that connection to faith and virtue that drew me in 1993. I’d yearned for a place where I could safely explore my faith, my freedom and my burgeoning interest in subjects like psychology, criminology and sociology.

My parents, Gloria and Randy, drove me pass the guard booth on main campus. Adjacent to it was St. Mary’s hall where the Jesuit priests lived, a place I thought I could go when or if I needed help. The guard booth was right in the center of the path way leading to the statue of a golden eagle with its wings spread, ready to fly. I smiled, viewing that symbol of the limitless future, thinking how lucky I and my classmates were to be at this place, at this time.

Before we arrived from New York my parents told me the importance of protecting myself. They told me to never going out at night alone, especially when I left campus. They told me to keep money for a cab and change to make an emergency call. Of course, they said I should be leery of guys and never bring them back to my room until I knew them well.

However, they didn’t warn me that I might meet someone capable of evil deeds right inside my own dorm or among my classmates. They didn’t tell me an abusers, a killer, or a rapist could look just like me or Brock Turner. They should have because in four years away at college I encountered all three and, in the process for an education in danger just like many of my other female friends.

My sophomore year I my friend began seeing a guy from who I got a bad vibe. He said sexually suggestive things, always disguised as a joke, but he didn’t lunge at me or violent attack in any way. I now know he is the most dangerous and devious person I’ve ever encountered. I didn’t know it then but I was close to becoming a victim of a man prosecutors would later called a “Green Eyed Casanova. He was convicted of a stabbing a teenage mother to death in front of her infant son and trying to cover it up by blowing up her apartment. The crime took place just six months before he began hanging out with me and my friends at school. Thankfully, I survived my run in with danger unharmed.

Yet, 23 years later, I read the letter by Turner’s victim and was saddened to see life for college aged women is not any safer now than it was when I was in college. I was horrified to learn women are still blamed for the cruel, callous, violating actions of others. I immediately thought back to the nauseous feeling I got when I opened our school newspaper my senior year and read a story of an attack on one of my friends. She remained silent for years until she could not anymore. I wondered why she hadn’t come forward sooner and allowed us, her friends, to help fight for justice. The truth is she probably would’ve faced the same blame hoisted on Turner’s victim; she knew that and wanted to avoid it.

I know my other female friends and often casually discussed men who grabbed us on dance floor at parties and guests in our room who pushed for my physical contact that we didn’t want. We dismissed the incidents as something that just happens to women rather than seeing it as a serious violation. We brushed off the insulting names shouted at us by someone when we refused their advances; thinking that’s just how some men behave. As an adult I know that was wrong and cowardice for us not to stand up for ourselves and other women. Perhaps were responsible for generations of men like tuner’s father thinking we like the abuse so they teach the same behaviors to their sons. The woman who survived Turner’s attack has shown me the only way to truly effect change and regain your self-respect it’s essential to stand up to injustices in every form.

Originally published in the Huffington Post on 6/13/2016: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/an-education-in-danger_us_575ef295e4b0b1a79b2ec4c1

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