Are you afraid of the dark?
When I turned the corner, I could finally see my house. With my heart racing, I picked up speed with each step I took.
I could still hear someone walking behind me, but I did not dare turn around. I was afraid; afraid to show fear.
I opened my bag and desperately started digging for my keys, not just to be ready to open my door quickly, but to have something to defend myself with in case anything happened.
I was practically running at that point. I stumbled up the stairs, rushed in and locked the door behind me. I was safe.
This experience is something most women have felt at least once in their lives. But is it really that much more dangerous when it is dark, or is it merely a charade?
Santa Monica College has dealt with shootings, lockdowns and bomb threats this year, all of which have occurred in broad daylight.
So what is it that we are so afraid of at night? Is it the dark, or the fact that you are out at night practically alone?
SMC student Marie Hagstrom said she believes that it is a mixture of both. We are scared of what we cannot see in the dark. However, when no one is around, that creates the perfect opportunity for someone to cause harm without the risk of anybody witnessing it.
Hagstrom said that for her, the fear of imminent danger is real. There is no difference between walking alone at dusk and taking a stroll just before sunrise.
“If there are no people around, I am terrified that something bad will happen,” said Hagstrom.
Fear of the dark is more common among women than men.
SMC student Rojan Telo said he never feels scared or unsafe in the evenings, rather the opposite.
“I think it is kind of nice and peaceful walking outside when it is dark,” he said.
Before the violence took place last semester at SMC, Telo had never experienced anything scary or uncomfortable on or off campus.
However, his mentality has not changed much this fall.
“You can’t go around thinking that everyone you meet wants to hurt you,” he said. “It’s all about your attitude toward the people you meet.”
Even though Telo said he always feels safe, there are still some places he would not dare venture to in the evenings.
Telo has an interesting theory on why women are more scared of the dark than men. He believes the media is the source of midnight paranoia.
“They make people more afraid than necessary, especially women,” he said.
Telo also pointed out that the SMC syllabus has a disturbing message. It states that women are advised to study in places where they are not alone, and that there is a guide detailing what to do if someone touches them inappropriately.
“It just creates more anxiety than it does good,” he said.
Would it not be better to, for example, inform students about the routines of a lockdown on the syllabus, rather than safety measures for women?
From my own experience and the impressions I received when I spoke to some women is that none of them ever experienced anything scary or dangerous in Los Angeles, and yet we are still afraid to walk alone in the dark.
Louise Lindback, a freshman at SMC, and despite having only been in Los Angeles for two months, is already under the impression that the streets of LA are a dangerous place for women, especially when the sun sets.
“I never go by myself when it is dark,” said Lindback. “I always meet up with my friends and we will walk together.”
The hype around the danger in LA only creates a bad environment among women. Of course you have to be careful to not tempt fate, but that does not mean you shouldn’t be able to go to the supermarket or walk your dog without being scared to death.
After living in this country for six months, It still amazes me to witness the attitudes many people have toward the night. It’s almost as if I have to be scared because everyone says I should be.
But what if we all followed Rojan Telo’s suggestion and started to walk outside more regularly instead of staying home and being afraid?
What if we could create a chain reaction which would make it possible for more women and men to feel safe when they walk outside on late hours?
The more people that we have around us, the safer we feel.