Winter in St. John’s: the days are shorter, and dusk falls upon the city at an earlier hour leaving many of us walking the streets after the sunsets. More times than not, the streets of Newfoundland and Labrador remain safe for the province’s women to travel during both the day time and night time hours. However, the possibility of being the target of harassment does exist. Late last year, numerous reports of sexual assault occurred in the downtown area of St. John’s. The assaults took place after dark, and the women were alone at the time of the attack.
The perpetrator of these crimes has since been apprehended and charged, but these incidents serve as a reminder to all women to take the necessary precautions when walking around the city or campus alone after dark. The purpose of this article is to not make women fearful of their own surroundings. If anything, St. John’s as a city is a safe one, as well as Memorial’s campus. The purpose of this article is to shed light on safely walking in the dark, whether it is a trip to the library or walking the streets of New York City.
Being female for the last 20-something years, I have unfortunately had the experience of being harassed or followed on the walk home from school or work, as have a number of my female friends. I will not diminish the rush of fight-or-flight-type emotions that were pumping through my body during those times. Luckily, incidents such as these have been rare occurrences, and not the typical minutiae of my day-to-day existence. I feel safe walking about campus and the city streets after hours. Needless to say, I still keep my eyes and ears wide open.
Memorial University has a number of resources for maintaining a safe campus for everyone. WalkSafe is a program facilitated by MUNSU since 1993. According to the MUNSU website, WalkSafe offers “students, faculty, staff, and guests of the university accompaniment when walking around campus after dark.”
In conjunction with the WalkSafe program, MUNSU also offers SafeDrive that is a program that offers students a free ride home after dark.
Readers, you may be thinking, “What about walking after dark when you are off campus?” First and foremost, if you feel as if you are in danger contact the authorities immediately. Secondly, if you can arrange a ride or walk with a friend to your destination, do so. However, if you choose to walk alone after dark, here are a few pieces of advice to stay safe.
- Walk in well-lit areas or on main thoroughfares. Don’t try to save time by cutting through an alley way—the extra 10 minutes saved is not worth risking your safety.
- Walk with a purpose—shoulders back, eyes ahead. Walk confidently.
- Be aware of your surroundings—pop out the earbuds, and eyes off the cell phone. Unless it is of utmost importance, that text can wait until you get home.
- After a tipsy night on George, arrange a ride, cab it, or walk home with friends. Walking home alone and inebriated leaves you vulnerable to attackers.
- Carry a whistle or a pull-alarm. (I have a whistle on my keychain that I purchased at the University Bookstore).
For more information on the Walksafe and SafeDrive programs, visit www.munsu.ca. WalkSafe can be contacted at 864-3737.