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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    SafeWalk but one safeguard

    SafeWalk, a free program introduced in November that provides escorts to UA community members traveling campus after dark, is averaging only a student served per night.

    That number could stand to improve, given the various dangers lurking for both women and men, according to employees at the Women’s Resource Center, the program’s source.

    “”The thing is safety on campus has never really been an issue because no one ever really brings it up as an issue,”” said Kristin Barnes, a SafeWalk intern. “”The thing is, though, campus is not that safe.””

    The most recent University of Arizona Police Department Annual Campus Safety and Security Report, released in October, showed that two sexual assaults, nine robberies, 13 aggravated assaults and 30 assaults occurred on campus in 2006.

    SafeWalk is one of a handful of means the center has to curb on-campus violence. Offered between 7:30 and 11:30 p.m. via phone call or text message, it is mainly targeted at women as a response to what Carly Thomsen, the center’s director, sees as a bigger safety issue.

    “”In a country where one in four women is the victim of rape, it is obvious why some people don’t feel safe walking around at night,”” Thomsen said. “”We’re here to help them feel safe. If that means offering a free walking service at night, then we are here to help, even though this is a short-term solution.

    “”There is obviously a bigger picture here if 25 percent of women have been sexually assaulted.””

    Once someone reaches the SafeWalk cell phone line, 471-5262, two of SafeWalk’s eight interns are sent to pick up the individual.

    At no time will a patron be picked up by two male walkers. Instead, two women or one man and one woman will arrive.

    The program is not limited to women. All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to call if they feel unsafe.

    “”In a culture where violence, especially against women, is not challenged, we are just here to show that this shouldn’t be normalized,”” Thomsen said. “”No one should feel unsafe on campus at any time.””

    Barnes said the program can be an ideal alternative to SafeRide, another ASUA service that gives members of the UA community free car rides to locations within a short distance of campus.

    “”SafeRide is wonderful but they are overworked and sometimes you just need a ride from the library to your car at Second Street Garage,”” Barnes said. “”It’s not far, but it’s not safe to walk around a parking garage by yourself. We are here to help people who don’t necessarily need a ride somewhere, but still need to feel safe walking on campus.””

    Thomsen added that the broad range of places SafeRide covers also makes it more difficult to get help directly on campus.

    “”If you call SafeWalk we will have someone there in about 10 minutes depending on where you are on campus,”” she said.

    With its text-message access, SafeWalk offers a feature to hearing-impaired individuals that SafeRide does not have the ability to help with yet, Barnes said.

    Students said they see the importance of programs like SafeWalk but haven’t known it existed.

    “”I think it’s a great idea, and it could be really beneficial to students,”” said Allie Moriarty, a molecular and cellular biology freshman. “”I haven’t heard of it, though. Things like that should be advertised more to really help people.””

    Aside from SafeWalk, the Women’s Resource Center offers self-defense classes, pepper spray and rape whistles as protection methods.

    “”We have a lot of antiviolence, safety and empowerment works and SafeWalk is just one piece of our overall goal to empower women,”” Thomsen said. “”Women should feel just as safe as their male counterparts anywhere they go.””

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