“Fire!” freshman Kristen Radcliffe screamed as loud as she could as she violently kicked and struggled against the five men that surrounded her outside 1812 Liacouras Walk.
“Man, she’s crazy!” said one of the men, who scurried at the sound of Radcliffe’s surprising reaction, and left Radcliffe incredibly shaken, but thankfully unharmed and still in possession of her belongings. Armed with an oversized $200 Kate Spade bag loaded with school work, she was making the short trek from 1300 Residence Hall to 1940 Residence Hall after a night of studying.
“They started walking behind me and they definitely looked suspicious,” said Radcliffe, who is now a junior.
“Before I knew it I was pushed up against a fence.” Remembering what her Temple orientation leader once told her, Radcliffe screamed “Fire!” knowing that “Help!” was not as likely to get the attention of others.
“I was extremely lucky,” Radcliffe said. “But all I could think of was, ‘I am not losing this purse!'” Walking at night is a major issue for students, especially females who attend urban universities such as Temple. These same students might not be properly informed on how to prevent themselves from becoming a target. Monica Hankins, a sergeant for Campus Safety Services, deals with victim assistance in crime prevention programs. She has noticed the oblivious nature some students have adopted when venturing home after dark. She said the most important piece of information to remember is never to travel alone at night.
“Make sure you set a plan to leave in groups. Do not isolate yourself. Doing so only allows you to be a victim,” Hankins said.
“I never walk alone now, and I never let my friends either. Ever,” Radcliffe said. Whether in a group or by yourself it is extremely important to always be aware of your surroundings and walk in lighted areas.
“Even if I knew a route that is shorter, I would take the longer one that has more light. It is much more important to be seen,” said Niketa Lambert, a junior education major.
Hankins furthered this tip by advising students to walk on the inside of the sidewalk toward the building and away from the street if there are suspicious cars.
“It is easy to get pulled into a car if you are not expecting it,” Hankins said.
Hankins added that a person’s tone could ward off a potential situation.
“Girls should not be afraid to show some attitude if someone is talking to them,” she said. She explained that this does not mean to be outrageous and rude, but simply to give off the impression of disinterest and to continue walking.
“The average person cannot be bothered with people trying to talk to them,” Hankins said. “If you go against the norm, and show interest by talking back, you label yourself a victim.”
“If someone approaches me [by] talking,
I always just take out my cell phone and call someone to talk to. It makes me feel more safe,” said senior finance and business management major Valisha Tankard. Hankins strongly discourages this approach,
saying that it prevents you from being aware of your surroundings. Hankins advises students to utilize their phones by keeping them open in their pockets ready to make an emergency call if necessary, but out of sight when walking. Nighttime muggings are not just something women on campus have to worry about. According to Hankins there are more reported cases of men being attacked than women.
“Guys around here tend to think they are invincible, they walk around with the ‘It isn’t going to happen to me’ syndrome,” Hankins said. Hankins said men are more likely to get approached because their guards are down.
“It’s true,” said junior Alex Bell, “As guys we just don’t feel like we need an entourage to walk around with us. But I stay off my phone and I don’t carry a lot of money on me.” Bell, 21, has been mugged at gunpoint twice in the past two-and-a-half years after leaving Temple’s campus and heading home to his South Philadelphia apartment. He learned that even with a “tough guy attitude” you have to know how to act smart. Hankins advises anyone who is walking home and even feels the slightest bit in danger to just simply run.
“Never stop running,” she said. “Even if you feel the situation may not be dangerous, run and scream anyway. You may feel stupid at the time, but it will keep you safe.”
“I definitely wouldn’t be afraid to book it if I felt I’d be in danger,” said Jimmy Leckner, a junior BTMM major. “You need to be careful, you are in the lion’s den around here and you need to be smart about your safety.”
Michelle Sears can be reached at michelle.sears@temple