Darkness fails to keep nighttime walkers from campus study locations

By Kelli E. Christiansen

Some NIU officials believe students walking alone at night have nothing to fear, but others say there is a basis behind the fear.

Although officials at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana noted a drop in the number of women who use the library at night or attend study groups, NIU has not noticed the same effect at popular studying places on campus.

“I wouldn’t say I noticed a difference in the number of women in the library at night,” said Doris Miller, assistant professor for general reference at Founders Memorial Library. Miller said a change is “hard to tell” because students enter the library in groups and then separate.

The number of women at the Pow Wow Cafeteria in the Holmes Student Center “hasn’t been affected” by nightfall, according to a Pow Wow student manager who wished to remain anonymous.

“From an objective standpoint, there is no reason for fear,” said University Police Capt. James Webster. “We’re very careful.”

Webster said fear still exists, however, and “that was one of the reasons the Late Nite Ride Service was created.”

Most of the ride service trips are from the Greek Row area to west campus residence halls, he said.

“We haven’t had any recent incidents where people are afraid to walk alone,” Webster said.

Fall seems to be the season with the most sexual assaults, said Beverly Beetham, chairman of the Sexual Assault Task Force, a division of the Sexual Assault Response Team.

SART is composed of four departments: the University Health Service, the Judicial Office, the UPs and the NIU Counseling Center.

Beetham said 16 sexual assaults were reported last fall. Ten of the assaults were on campus, three were off campus, two were on Greek Row and one location was not reported.

“Walking alone is not necessarily the problem with NIU,” said Mary Ronan, greek affairs adviser for University Programming and Activities and a member of the Sexual Assault Task Force.

Ronan said the main problem at NIU is date or acquaintance rape, not stranger rape.

Two of the assaults were stranger rapes, 13 were known assailants and one was unidentified, Beetham said.

The number of rapes last fall is about the same as in recent semesters and the average number of sexual assaults per semester is between 16 and 17, she said.

“The biggest problem is with alcohol,” she said. People lose control with alcohol use and should therefore avoid it, Beetham said.

“Women have to make their sexual desires known,” she said. “If they say no, they have to mean it. Men have to learn to respect wishes of women.” Beetham said men and women can be both victims and victimizers.

Sexual assault victims should first seek medical care and report the crime to police, she said.