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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The complexities of safety

<s Accepted Student Days at Carleton in the spring of 2015, the first time I had stayed overnight on campus. That night, I followed a group of fellow prospies to the Weitz to watch a theater major’s Comps show. Once the performance ended, I somehow lost track of the other prospies. This left me alone in finding my way back to Watson, my host’s dorm that I had absolutely no sense of direction for. It was too dark out to be able to clearly read the campus maps. And to make matters even worse, my phone had just died, leaving me unable to text my host.

I started to walk on the main road towards Sayles (the one building I knew of location-wise). But once I got there, I had no choice but to ask a bunch of clearly drunk students how to get to my destination. Upon my request, they gave me some basic directions. I started walking and eventually made it to Watson, safe. Throughout this whole period, I was afraid, but because of my poor sense of direction. Never did I feel in danger from my surroundings. During my time as an actual student at Carleton, never have I felt truly unsafe.

I did not tell you that story and make that statement in order to assert that this campus is safe, though. Sense of safety is a complicated matter that drastically differs from person to person. Someone else who went through my same experiences could feel much more in danger.
Much of how unsafe one feels has to do with aspects of identity. I identify as a woman, which statistically makes me more likely to be a victim of violence. This is a well-accepted fact and the reason women are oftentimes given special advisories on walking alone. If I was in an unfamiliar, crowded city by myself, I would feel much more fearful. Carleton, based on its location in a small town, may shield my fears to some extent.
However, I am also white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied and a U.S. citizen. People who do not share these components of my identity may sense more of a risk in walking around alone at night. I do not know how much Carleton’s isolated location shields the fears of people of these various identities. But, because I am not part of their communities, I have no role in speaking for them.
One’s sense of personal safety at Carleton can also be affected by past experiences. If you personally faced violence while walking alone once, you may be permanently scarred and, thus, scared to go anywhere alone.
I could go on and on about the different causes for sense of personal safety. In my personal experience, never have I felt truly unsafe here. Again, a reason I have never felt sincerely in danger here has to do with my mostly privileged identities. That’s why no individual can speak about everyone’s safety.
Furthermore, I think the reason I have this mindset is my personal realization that anything can happen anywhere and at anytime. This realization on my sense of safety may relate to my past experiences of proximity to danger. My hometown is half an hour away from the site of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. When word came out about the shooting that one Friday in December, I, sitting in my Latin class, wondered if any place could be deemed fully safe.
Contrary to what some people may argue, it is not that the world has become more dangerous. There has been violence against innocent people throughout all of history. The difference is that we learn more about this violence now. I am happy that there is this awareness of news around the world, or else people would rely too much on their skewed perceptions of certain places.
So I guess the takeaway here can be that while Carleton may be safer than some places (and I may be in a safer position based on aspects of my identity), there are never any guarantees.

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