When I was a freshman, I was walking back from a closing shift at Mack Library, where I had just started working. Front campus was deserted since it was after 10 p.m. I was meandering over the Bridge of Nations, enjoying the quiet. Then I had a realization.
I was a young woman walking alone in the dark with no one around.
It wasn’t the first time I had walked across campus alone at night. That was what caught my attention. I had lived on campus for months and felt safer than I ever had. Every instinct my mother had ever drilled into my head of don’t walk alone, don’t walk at night, don’t talk to strangers, was gone.
We talk about the BJU bubble, but this was one I never wanted to be popped. I don’t flinch at walking anywhere on campus alone in the dark. I smile at every person I pass, even with the mask. I don’t tense if a guy I don’t know nods at me in the hallway or smiles.
For me, while I still need to be cautious, there aren’t strangers on campus, there are other students. There aren’t risks walking back from work, there is a slow walk back to the dorm enjoying the fountain and lights.
There aren’t threats. There are people.
But when I leave campus, those instincts dial back up to 11. I never go downtown alone at any time of day. I don’t go to Walmart alone at night. I carry my keys with my finger on the panic button. And if a guy I don’t know in a button-up shirt and khakis glances my way too long, I walk faster.
My friend once told me it was exhausting being a woman because it was exhausting being afraid all the time. I had never heard it put in those terms before. I have strategies planned for if I see a guy following me. I angle myself when pumping gas so I can see behind me in the reflection of my car window. I watch self-defense training videos.
I know not everyone is a threat, but I still instinctively do these things because I’ve been taught to be on guard. Even when it’s irrational, it rarely stops affecting my choices. I love that I can relax those instincts on campus. But I hate that any woman has to have those instincts. I hate that I’ve had women tell me they’ve had bad experiences even on BJU campus. I hate that my sister will teach my niece to carry pepper spray and not look men in the eye.
In a perfect world, no woman would be afraid and no man would be assumed to be a threat, as fear is not of God. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) But until Christ returns, the world will always be filled with sin. Christ Himself said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).
As Christians, it is our job to spread the Gospel so we see sin diminish. Christ said in Matthew 5:13-14, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
To be salt and light, we have our work laid out for us. We challenge rape culture and bring awareness to the issue. We protect those who experience these fears daily. We stay safe, and we help others stay safe. We don’t stay silent and never excuse it when someone crosses a line verbally, phsycially or emotionally. We defend each other, and we support those who at one time didn’t have someone there to defend them.
Don’t downplay the real fears of others when it comes to these issues. Be aware of the things that happen so that by bringing attention to it, we can silence the catcalls, protect the night walks and bring justice to those harmed. And most importantly, share the Gospel so Christ can heal those who have been hurt and change those who have hurt others.