As the end of the year approaches and the temperature drops, more and more students are choosing to drive to class or the library. Since the parking space on campus is limited, this often means that drivers end up walking alone from parking lots or structures. According to the MSU Police Department’s website crime alert page, the commute from on and off-campus parking areas can be a dangerous one. Though 75 percent of sexual assaults happen to women who are in a familiar place, a small percentage occur while women are walking alone on campus, sometimes from their vehicle.

“We had a couple of people who were groped in Lot 93 earlier this year,” said Sgt. McGlothian-Taylor of the MSU Police Department. “Most cases of assault occur when the woman knows her attacker and in those situations we will prosecute the person.”

Taylor couldn’t ballpark how many people are involved in stranger assault and get away without charges, but he said that victims of assault are offered any assistance in tracking their attacker that the police department can provide.

The MSU Police Department guarantees full confidentiality in regards to sexual assault cases, as well as a sensitive and professional approach to each situation. Sexual assault victims will be provided an up-to-date report of all legal action taken with the attacker and are offered assistance to set up any medical or counseling appointments needed.

Students who find themselves walking alone at night can do a few things to reduce the risk of being assaulted.

“Call a group of friends to come pick you up so you’re not walking alone from your car,” Taylor said.

“It’s important to let someone know where you’re going and what time you leave if you expect to be walking alone,” said Lauren Allswede, the advocacy coordinator for MSU’s Sexual Assault Program. The best way to react if you find yourself about to be assaulted is to try to overcome the initial “freeze” that you feel when you’re frightened, she advised.

“Use whatever is around you as a weapon and yell to get the attention of anyone who might be near by.”

The best defense against sexual assault is awareness, Allswede said.

“I’ve heard of a lot of advice that women are given to avoid sexual assault like not wearing a pony tail or not talking on the phone while walking, but the truth is, if someone is intent on attacking you, they will. The most important thing is to stay alert.”

LaShonda Windham, the co-coordinator for the Take Back the Night event that happens annually on campus, agrees.

“A lot of women believe that they could have done something to prevent an attack. The truth is that the only person who can prevent an attack is the assailant. [Getting attacked] is not your fault,” Windham said.

Windam also said that assault victims are often given too much blame.

“A lot of people read about cases of assault on campus and are quick to assume that the assault is the victim’s fault. They say things like ‘Why was she walking alone late at night?’ or ‘Why was she wearing this or that?’ If you think about it, these are ridiculous statements. Everyone should have the right to wear what they want and walk freely around campus,” she said.

Windham said the university could do more to prevent sexual assault and stated that MSU should provide more education to students about the danger of being attacked.

“Being educated about sexual assault and domestic violence is the best way to protect yourself because there are so many myths surrounding the topic.”

The Take Back the Night event was established as a good place to get involved and help spread knowledge about rape, assault and violence against women. Take Back the Night is a day full of events that raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. Typically, the day consists of a march around campus, which symbolizes a unified resistance to violence against women, as well as short skits to raise awareness and a candle light vigil. This year Take Back the Night will be held on April 21, 2010 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

MSU does offer some services to students who might be walking alone late at night.

“There is a two hour self-defense class that I recommend,” Allswede said. “Also, there are people who will accompany you on a walk home or to your car if you’re leaving the library after dark.”

The green lights on campus have proven to be quite affective as well.

“If a button is pushed, someone will be there as immediately as possible to help,” Allswede said. “Ideally, the best way to signal help using the green lights is to continue pushing them as you run from your attacker, though it’s difficult to plan such a calculated route.”

In addition, MSU Safe Place is an on-campus program for students, faculty, staff and retirees in the Lansing area who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence. It offers counseling and other educational programs about abuse and assault, as well as a confidential place to stay for victims who experience continuous domestic violence or need somewhere to hide.

Olin Health Center and Sparrow Hospital also provide support for students who have been sexually assaulted. Both have a 24-hour crisis line available to anyone who has been a victim of rape or assault, needs medical attendance or would like resources regarding what to do after an incident. Sparrow’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program offers a confidential examination, STD treatment, referrals, emergency contraception and education for victims. For more information and counseling, contact the Sexual Assault Program located in the Student Services Building. The program is part of MSU’s counseling center and is offered to anyone in the area who has been a victim of sexual assault. Last year the program helped over 300 people with legal or medial aid and acted as a place to go for those who were afraid and confused after an assault incident.

One thought on “Parking Sometimes Risks Assault”

  1. Thank you for writing this article on the topic of men’s violence against women. It’s so important for the MSU community to be aware of the risks women face on our campus (and around the world) simply for being women.

    I also appreciate that you interviewed Lauren Allswede, a professional who works with survivors of sexual assault on a daily basis, since it is people like her who really have the experience and expertise to speak about what it’s really like for assault survivors.

    I think the information and advice given by Allswede and Windham (another wonderful voice to present in the interview, as she has years of advocacy experience as well) was excellent and I agree with what they both said.

    However, I am disappointed that the overall tone of the article seems to imply that victims are responsible for preventing people from attacking them. Shouldn’t we be aiming our “prevention tips” at those responsible for the attacks – who, an overwhelming majority of the time are men? Do we really believe the responsibility for preventing sexual assault lies on the shoulders of women?

    The title of the article is “Parking Sometimes Risks Assault”. The message that you are sending here is that if an attacker assaults a woman while she is “walking alone from parking lots or structures”, she “risked it” and is partially at fault. A woman, or anyone, who parks and then walks to her destination is not “risking assault”. She is living her life. It’s unfair that women are told that going about our daily activities sometimes mean we are “risking assault”, but that men can go about their daily activities sans comment.

    I wish this article had been instead about the work that women and men are doing to prevent sexual assaults from happening in the first place, or asking why more men aren’t involved in the movement to end men’s violence against women, or asking why more rapists aren’t brought to justice (and yes, that includes right here at MSU)? (Only about 6% of rapists ever serve a day in jail, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, Crime and Punishment in America, 1999)

    I leave you with this piece on “Sexual Assault Prevention Tips” by Monika Penner (http://girlwpen.com/?p=1614), which I think does a really nice job explaining why a victim-blaming (in a news article, in a book, talking to a friend) tone is harmful:

    Sexual Assault Prevention Tips

    When you tell me that I shouldn’t drink too much alcohol because that increases my risk of being sexually assaulted, I hear that I was responsible for being raped because I was drunk.

    When you tell me to walk with a friend or lock my doors, I hear that I should fear strangers jumping out from the bushes or breaking into my house and not my friend and lover who raped me.

    When you tell me to take self-defense classes, or to yell and fight back if I am being attacked, I hear that my natural defense reaction to freeze was wrong.

    When you tell me to get to know people before I invite them into my home or go out with them, I hear that I should have known that the person I befriended for several years was a rapist.

    When you tell me to walk confidently, I hear that my body posture made my offender want to sexually assault me.

    When you tell me to carry pepper spray, I hear that I am responsible for being sexually assaulted because I didn’t.

    When you tell me that I should report the assault to the police, I hear that if I don’t because I am afraid, or don’t want to talk about it, I shouldn’t feel this way, and that my need to exert some sort of control after having my power taken away, is wrong.

    When you offer me “tips” for my own safety, I hear that it was my behavior in question, and not my offender’s.

    And when you tell me that there are things I could do differently, in order to prevent being sexually assaulted, I hear that I am responsible for what someone else does.”

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