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At the beginning of October, Furman Police sent out an email informing the student body of a suspicious person following and approaching a woman on campus in North Village. I spoke with this student and asked her to detail the events. Of this encounter, she accounts, “He lapped around the parking lot and waited for me at the stop sign. [This] was when I first texted my friends. I texted my friend group chat something like “Is anyone in North Village? I’m being followed.” None of my friends were nearby so I decided to just beeline to my apartment. I made it about fifteen feet past his car when he u-turned and began following next to me, close enough [that] I could have reached out and tapped the hood of his car. After a few seconds, he rolled down the window and began asking me if I needed a ride or if he could take me back to my apartment. I said no thank you and continued to walk, but he just silently kept following me.” 

After ensuring the safety of the student, officers were quick to identify this man and uncover his history of stalking and harassing women in the Greenville area, which is really scary. 

I am writing about this incident because I think we could all use a reminder to be aware of our surroundings. Since Furman is such a small university with a close-knit community, it feels very safe on campus. Like me, you probably have left your key either under a door mat or in the door lock for convenience. After the campus-wide email of this stalking was sent out, however, I realized just how unsafe this situation was.

I asked this student how she noticed that she was being followed. She said, “within seconds of seeing the car, I had a sick feeling in my stomach … and [when] he couldn’t stop staring … I just knew something was up.” 

Being aware means being present with what is going on around you. If you see or hear something strange, you need to trust that gut feeling that something is wrong. 

After the man approached her and the student declined his offer for a ride, he continued to follow her. It was then that she decided she needed to call the Furman Police. When she did, the man sped off. Officers arrived shortly to make sure that she was okay and helped her to file a report. She explains, “I’m glad I did … because I just couldn’t live with the guilt if someone else had this experience and actually got hurt. I’ve never once felt unsafe on this campus and now I feel like I constantly have to be looking over my shoulder.”

Our society pressures women to be well-mannered and polite, even when we are uncomfortable and feel threatened. It is for this reason that women are too often victimized. In order to protect ourselves, we must be more proactive about speaking up when we feel unsafe. We must not be afraid to tell someone to leave us alone when they relentlessly approach us after our repeated “no thank you’s.” We need also to report these incidents rather than brush them off and let them go. Individuals like this man must face repercussions and be stopped.

We all can learn from the way in which this student responded. She was aware of her surroundings, was not afraid to tell the man “no,” and filed a report in an effort to spare others from experiencing this same frightening encounter. 

Protect yourselves and protect one another.

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