It’s late. You’re studying for finals, so it’s only going to get later. What’s your plan for walking home after dark? Is it dangerous? Is it safer to talk on your phone (so a friend knows where you are) or not to (so you’re more aware of your surroundings)?
It might help to know that in many places, including Ann Arbor, most attacks happen when we’re indoors (probably because those most likely to assault us are people we know.) That’s not to say there aren’t risks outdoors, but it can help to know that it’s a fairly low crime location for most people, most of the time.
So what should you know about walking in the dark? Here are some ideas to help you be safer and feel safer. Remember, it’s up to you to decide which strategies fit your life and which don’t:
The University of Michigan offers free late night transportation to students, faculty and staff. SAFERIDE will take you from campus to your home or car, up to a mile off campus. Just call 647-8000. Do expect a wait time during peak hours.
Use the Buddy System.
Those who want to sexually harass, steal from, or assault a person are less likely to choose us if we’re with someone else. Of course, it may not be safer if we choose just anyone. Unfortunately, some perpetrators offer to walk women home to sexually assault them. And importantly, a choice to “never walk alone” might feel simple to one student, but completely impossible to another who works nights or lives in her own apartment.
Sometimes learning a few self-defense skills for worst case scenarios can help raise your awareness, ease your fears, and give you concrete choices to use in an emergency. The goal of Personal Safety Education is to expand your options, and does not imply that you “should” be able to prevent any attempted attack.
Think about your personal risk profile.
Our safety risks vary based on gender & gender identity, race and ethnicity, false beliefs (like “bad things don’t happen to good people”), previous experiences of victimization, level of inebriation, and many other factors. Some of these we can change and some we can’t. To study your personal risk profile, consider taking a class this fall on Violence Prevention in College and Beyond (PHYSED 313.001).
Use the phone.
“Now I’m crossing State Street… Now I’m entering the Diag….” Giving a play by play to a friend can be psychologically reassuring, and in rare instances, allow someone to call the police on your behalf. It’s important to note that it may slightly increase the chance that a perpetrator will assume you’re distracted, and try to steal your laptop or purse. Do keep your phone charged and nearby, with emergency numbers on speed dial - a good safety strategy for any location or time of day.
Always, where you are can make a big difference. Ann Arbor, the city or country you grew up in, and the place where you move to next could all have very different safety risks out of doors. Use your instinct, ask your peers, and pick the strategies that work for you!