by AMBER EBANKS
A University of Maryland indecent exposure alert at the start of the semester inspired some College Park citizens to change their safety habits.
Since the alert, there have been two voyeur incidents in women’s restrooms on campus and an indecent touching report. College Park resident Danielle Gisselbeck has not changed her walking paths, but she has questioned her safety in the College Park community. Despite this, Gisselbeck does not avoid Route 1 at night.
“I mean it definitely doesn’t make me feel any better about being a girl walking around College Park the way everyone always tries to make you feel uncomfortable being a girl walking alone around everywhere,” said Gisselbeck. “It was disappointing to see the least.”
The University of Maryland offers several services, such as Nite Ride and the Student Police Aides (SPAs), to help students safely reach their destinations at night. Nite Ride provides shuttle services for students, and the SPAs can walk students to their destination if they feel unsafe on campus. In addition, CARE, the campus confidential resource, also offers an anonymous crisis cell that students can call if they feel unsafe.
CARE serves anyone that has been impacted by sexual violence, stalking, sexual harassment, domestic violence or rape at the University of Maryland. Many University of Maryland students can volunteer in the office, or become a member of the outreach team. CARE is a confidential resource and does not have to report any information to the university, with the exception of past child abuse or any threats to harm to themselves or others.
“We don’t pressure students to report, we don’t pressure them for detailed information,” said to Fatmia Taylor, the Director for CARE at the University of Maryland’s Heath Center.
“People can come in and talk about as much or as little as they want to talk to us about, and then we help them weigh the pros and cons of their options. A lot of times people just may want to come in and talk. They may not want a particular outcome.”
Members of CARE can go to the hospital with students, go to appointments with them if they do decide to report and can also help them schedule urgent care and women’s health appointments. The CARE office also offers mental health services, such as therapy. All of the services are free, and if students are unable to pay their medical visits they can generally be paid through the Victim Assistance Fund.
CARE offers presentations that cover a variety of topics, such as relationship violence and sexual violence. The largest presentation that CARE is offering this year is called “Step Up”. The program promotes bystander intervention. “It pretty much teaches all students on campus that sexual misconduct is a community responsibility. It provides them so tools to help them figure out how to safely intervene or how to reduce the negative impact,” said Taylor.
CARE reaches many first-year students generally through UNIV or through RA presentations. Other students learn about CARE through their events. These events include, the Clothesline Project, Take Back the Night and other various annual events. CARE also offers peer-education programs where students can become peer educators or outreach peers. Many of the students are from various majors and backgrounds.
Five students from the University of Michigan created Companion, an app that lets users virtually keep family and friends company while tracking their journey home via GPS on an online map. Although, family and friends do not have to have the application downloaded on their phone. This app has been promoted on several college campuses, including the University of Maryland.
Companion sends its users to a web page with an interactive map, which shows the user walking to their destination. If the user strays off, falls, is pushed or drifts from the path in any way, the app detects those changes in movements, then asks the user if they are okay. If the user is fine, they can press a button on the app to confirm within 15 seconds. If they do not press the button, Companion begins to project loud noises and gives you the option to instantly call the police.