DeKalb safety course aims to ’empower’ students

By Linze Griebenow

A course on personal safety is scheduled to take place nearly one year after NIU freshman Antinette ‘Toni’ Keller’s tragic disappearance and murder.

The ‘Refuse to be a Victim’ seminar will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Elk’s Lodge, 209 S. Annie Glidden Road. The course requires a $20 registration fee that includes the cost of the seminar as well as a take-home notebook filled with additional safety information and suggestions on strategies that may aid in preventing potential victimization. The course is typically aimed at educating people beginning at a minimum age of 14; however, the Dekalb program is geared toward empowering the college populous.

Laurie Dougherty, a certified ‘Refuse to be a Victim’ instructor, plans to address safety issues that may go overlooked when traveling through town or campus and offer tips to students on how to avoid dangerous situations.

“Most people are raised to be polite and be willing to talk to anyone who walks up to you”, Dougherty said.

Linda Moser, Safe Passage executive director, said she believes it’s necessary for NIU students to attend the seminar in order to help them become more aware of their surroundings in an effort to preserve personal safety.

“Parents should teach safety at an early age,” Moser said. “It’s a fact of life: The environment around us isn’t always safe and we can do something to help ourselves.”

Amanda Schrems, an NIU Alumni and coordinator of Safe Passage’s sexual assault program, urges people in the community and on campus to attend the program in order to take away valuable lessons that could potentially mean the difference between life and death. Schrems said she too often sees NIU students walking around wearing headphones and hoods, texting and walking with heads down, all behaviors that she worries may lead to more vulnerability and victimization. On the list of her safety ‘musts’ is a check-in system, where friends or family have a phone tree in place so at least one person knows where you are at all times.

“I’m 30 years old and I still use the check-in system with my friends” Schrems said.

Attendance is expected to range from 75 to 100 participants, who should be prepared to engage in discussion, group activities and role play. Following the seminar will be optional quick-training on how to use pepper spray, with spray available for purchase after the program. Registration will be taken at the door or is available online on the Missing Antinette Keller Facebook page and proceeds go to the Toni Keller Memorial Fund as well as help cover the cost of the class and the use of the Elk’s Lodge. Questions about the event can be answered through the ‘Refuse to be a Victim’ hotline at 1-888-400-1029 or online through the seminar’s Facebook page.