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Why We No Longer Feel Safe in Our Own Dorms

Let me tell you why the females of the John Adams Residence Hall no longer feel safe. I live in a dorm I pay thousands of dollars each year to live in. A dorm like one that you might live in, a dorm like one your daughter might live in, a dorm like one of your best friends might live in, and if I sound a bit angry and upset, just know that it is because I sure as hell am.

There have been multiple reports of a UMass Amherst student going into the girl’s bathroom, peeking under the shower stalls, and trying to take videos or pictures of innocent girls in the shower. Let that sink in for a moment. Some scum bag feels the need to invade our privacy, disregarding our safety and our right to live peacefully in the place we pay for. 

I took a shower this morning at 7:00 a.m., a time when practically no one is awake, and yes, I was worried. My sense of safety and comfort has decreased. I spent the entire shower worrying about some creep coming into the bathroom trying to get a peek at my body; something that is none of his business, only mine. I continued to eye the door throughout my shower and even placed the curtain in a way I could see anyone who came in the bathroom. Do I sound paranoid? I was.

I feel no longer safe in a place I find home, and that’s not fair. Who is this man to take my sense of safety and comfort away from me? Who is he to invade on the lives of UMass female students like this?

I interviewed some female residences of J.A. to get a sense of how they feel about the situation that happened, and from doing so I could get a sense that they feel the exact same way I do about it. Words like scared, unsafe, and uncomfortable came up in our discussions. These women are afraid in their own dorm rooms. Multiple people said they have now changed their shower schedules due to a sense of nervousness about this man.

Diamante Spencer, a resident, said, "It makes me really scared. I am nervous to shower late at night.” She proceeded to tell me she now showers during the afternoon time, hoping that everyone is at class. Amanda Shkreli, another resident, stated, “ We didn’t learn about it until 4 cases, they should have done something earlier.” The University sent out an email to the students on November 8th, after again like Shkreli said, four reports occurred. Why didn’t we hear about this sooner in order to gain a better sense of safety and awareness to begin with?

The email also told students, “Female residents are advised to remain aware of their surroundings and to contact the UMPD if they observe or are aware of similar situations.” Is it fair that we need to be more aware of of surroundings because there is some guy out there coming into our showers and peeking in on us? No. Though yes, it is helpful to raise awareness within the community and make it known these things are happening, but I shouldn’t have to be alert in the shower. I shouldn’t have to feel like at any moment I might look down and see a phone trying to take pictures of my body. I want to feel safe in the showers of my own dorm, we all do. But when will that happen? Will we ever be able to feel the same way again? It’s been a couple weeks since the email went out, and in the shower I am still scared that an unwanted person might come in and try to violate me. None of us should live in fear. Katie Higgins, a resident of J.A. said that these incidents were, ”Disgusting, a violation of privacy.” If so many females are showing the same concern, something needs to be done to make us feel safe again.

Posters were hung up in the women’s bathrooms stating that if anyone noticed suspicious activity to report it to the UMass Police Department. Again, this is not fair. Issues related to men attacking or violating women often get turned into a women’s issue. But why should we be inconvenienced by one disgusting man? Instead of focusing on telling girls to be alert in the showers, we need to teach men from the beginning to respect women. We need to realize where these problems come from; and it is not the women themselves.

The John Adam’s Hall Residence director, Megan Wyett, also sent out an email on November 8th about the incidents. She told the community: “Your safety is my top priority. Likewise, it is the top priority of the university as we know that safety is essential to your success in college.” I would say that this email was comforting in some sense; it was good to hear that if anyone needed support they could talk to the J.A. staff or community. But, this guy is still in our residence hall somewhere, knowing what he did, and for all we know possibly planning to do it again. Marissa Donovan, another resident, said, “I haven’t heard of anything that has happened since, whoever did it might be hesitant to do it now.” And hopefully that is the case, but it doesn’t stop us females from being scared in the shower. It doesn’t stop us from changing our showering habits, it doesn’t catch the guy who violated the privacy of multiple girls. In the end, I think the community handled the situation to the best of their ability. Making the UMass community aware of the situation was needed in order to scare this guy off and make students aware something like this is actually happening in their dorm rooms. People on campus know about this, and they are most certainly talking about it. But, what is going to happen next? I do not think it is fair that this guy walks around free while his victims have to deal with the aftermath of being violated. I’m sure we all want this guy caught in order to feel safe once again in our showers. I know I do.

Still think we don’t need feminism? Still think that we don’t need feminism when they are guys out there constantly disrespecting and violating innocent women? As a declared feminist, I know I’ll continue to fight until women feel safe- safe in society, safe on college campuses, and safe in general. Violating anyone’s privacy is just not okay. Our bodies are our bodies and we do what we want with them. So, the question is, will we ever feel safe in the shower again?

Photo: 1,2,3,4,5,6

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Carson McGrath

U Mass Amherst

Carson McGrath is in her first year at the University of Massachusetts. She is studying English and Journalism and hopes to one day write professionally. She is a triplet and loves the color orange, sushi, and Audrey Hepburn.
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