By Gary Kehoe
With Halloween just a few days away, The College of New Jersey has already experienced a serious case of the “creeps.”
The commonly humorous term has become a scary reality as two alleged sexual assaults were recently committed on and near campus.
Alert Messages provide general warnings, yet do not address underlying issues. Should we constantly be fearful of assault? Kidnapping? No.
Those extreme possibilities can only result in fear or dismissal altogether.
The real risk to be aware of is more familiar, and in turn less recognizable to college students. This Halloween, the best way to avoid the creeps is to recall the respect we owe ourselves and each other; make an effort to keep an eye on, and unwanted eyes off, our student body. Last April an old man costumed as a ‘90s Aaron Carter roamed our student center. This should have set alarms off in everyone’s minds; some noticed, most dismissed. Last month a man in a dark hooded sweatshirt lurked near Forcina, and allegedly assaulted a student as she passed by alone at night.
Confusion as to the exact details of the incident prevented further investigation or arrest. The alert message was again the extent of discussion: “…We remind students when traveling at night to travel in groups and stay in well-lit areas.”
Soon afterwards we received the next and final alert. A student expecting to be taken to an interview for the Wasabi Wok restaurant got into a car with an Asian male, mistaking him for a restaurant employee. She was allegedly driven to an off- campus location and assaulted. Familiar circumstances dulled the impact: “We remind students when traveling at night to travel in groups and stay in well-lit areas.”
Though two of these three reported incidents occurred weeks apart, events of their kind are largely infrequent at the college. A personal connection to events which are blatantly out of the ordinary and so objectively communicated in an email from Campus Police is difficult. Students begin to perpetuate an illusion that a potentially violating situation will present itself in a bold, recognizable way. A student with half a brain would report some grandpa sitting on the fountain in a cape, licking a Popsicle. Perhaps the following hypothetical is a better example of the risk many students mistake as usual. This Halloween night I’ll pull into the lot behind T/W to pick up my girlfriend. Upon parking, I will be approached by a group of girls dressed as sexy, say, butterflies.
My first instinct will be to do what anyone would do when approached by strangers; re-quaff my hair and pinch myself to assure I am not dreaming. The girls’ clothing is just small enough to cover the necessary areas; their outfits are more clever than sexy. They check their phones, confused and excited as they wobble on their heels to my window. As I roll it down, I hear them ask, “Are you Dave from Fraternity X?” My first thought: “Of all nights to NOT be Dave from Fraternity X, why did I pick THIS one?” My second thought: “Why are these sexy butterflies in a parking lot at eleven o’clock? Especially in the T-Dubbs parking lot, which with all of its dumpsters, shady exchanges and quesadillas might better be described as a barrio?” I will inform them that I am not Dave from Fraternity X (though how easily I could be). Perhaps they can wait elsewhere. They laugh and continue their parking lot search for Dave from Fraternity X.
There is no definite reason for why behavior which seems so common-sensibly reckless is so common place. We’ve all seen it.
Perhaps the best explanation is, it’s College. We shouldn’t advocate the abolishment of sexy costumes; this is what makes any college party so college. Personally, I cannot deny letting a sexy butterfly catch my eye every now and again. Girls want to look good and guys want to look at them, such is life. However, having a younger sister in college, and a conscience slightly greater than my libido, I am saddened when
I see these sexy butterflies shivering, waiting to be picked up by someone they don’t know. My freshman year I dressed up as a Hooters girl and froze my fake-breasts off doing the same. In my experience, I could not have felt more violated.
When you’re half naked in a Utopian parking lot, you have nothing to worry about. When you’re doing it most anywhere else (say, Ewing), you’re going to give yourself the creeps. There is a compromise needed on the part of men and women; respect ones’ self and expect others to do the same. I can’t imagine more simple or poignant advice, yet you will never find it in an alert from Campus Police.
Parking lots will be lined with sexy butterflies until each driver who expects to pick up a sexy butterfly has done so.
The cliché “creeper” disguise is so run-out, the situation so recognizable, that it does not stand a chance, we are too smart for that. The more present risk is that which we perpetuate ourselves. The unwanted eyes on our student body may simply be those that wait for when we fail to keep an eye on each other. There’s plenty of scary stuff out there; try not to give yourself the creeps.