By Shelby Brown–
The fall semester brings the promise of crisp autumn air, beautiful color in the trees, pumpkin-flavored everything, and earlier nightfall. With the 2016-2017 school year underway, the University of Louisville and ULPD have remained adamant about decreasing campus crime.
U of L’s website speaks of after-dark safety measures in place for the benefit of students and staff. Programs like RAVE Alerts, the recent addition of the L Trail and the ULPD Campus Escort services can help keep students stay safe after dark.
Students may be dismayed to know, however, that escort services are only offered after 9 p.m., and the boundaries extend only four blocks from campus. ULPD escorts can make an exception with a “documented safety concern,” according to the U of L website. ULPD Lieutenant Kenny Brown explained that the aforementioned safety concerns concentrated on students who had problems with domestic disputes, fights or stalking.
“We take each situation case by case,” Brown says.
The safety concerns are more rampant than expected, however. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), one out of six American women and one out of 33 men have been raped or have experienced a rape attempt. In addition, the American Association of University Women found that out of all other age groups, college-aged women are four times more likely to face sexual assault. The L Trail and Cardsafe programs are meant to empower students, male and female alike, to feel safe when walking through campus at night. But do they?
“In my opinion, our university police do an amazing job providing a substantial number of rides to students, given that this is in addition to their other regular shift duties,” Sally Evans says. Evans is the director of PEACC, the campus group responsible for Prevention, Education & Advocacy on Campus and in the Community.
“The great thing about U of L is that we have this amazing network of campus partners like The PEACC Center, University Police, The Counseling Center, The Dean of Students and others who work closely to make this a place where students can live, learn and love free of violence and fear,” Evans said.
Aimee Szetela, a senior, has differing views. Szetlea says that she feels “paranoid” when walking on campus after dark. Bernadette Stone, a junior, says she carries pepper spray and a knife whenever she is walking through U of L or the downtown area after dark.
U of L’s website also promotes the good-old-fashioned buddy system, encouraging students to travel on campus in pairs. A study conducted by the National Institute of Justice reported that nine out of ten of the college women who were raped knew their attacker personally. Given this statistic, are the university’s initiatives truly making students feel safer?
One way to ensure safety and prevention of assault would be to have the ULPD escort services be more accessible. If campus escorts are actually available “dusk to dawn” as Lieutenant Brown said, perhaps there needs to be a change of signage. Stone, who lived on campus her freshman year, went on to recall her personal experience with the campus escorts with some distaste.
“The escort service sucks,” she said. Stone works at the U of L Planetarium with the last Friday night shows wrapping up at midnight. “I would request an escort and it would take them thirty plus minutes to get there, so I would just walk back myself. It just takes forever for them to get there.”
The problem isn’t just limited to U of L. The overwhelmingly high sexual assault statistics, mishandled cases and the thousands of backlogged rape kits nationwide have ushered in a call for more reliable college safety measures. While legislation has worked its way across the country to push rape kits to a higher priority, there have been issues in the courts as well. On Sep. 2, Brock Turner was released from prison after serving only half of his six month sentence for rape, despite the overwhelming evidence against him. Turner, who was 22, brutally assaulted a woman behind a dumpster last January and has barely received a slap on the wrist.
“Of course we can always do more when it comes to crime,” Evans said. “We are constantly trying to figure out how to effectively reach and educate 22,000 students with limited staff and resources. We still have a long way to go to shift our culture, but if even one less student is hurt this year, we are closer to our goal.”