My freshman year was finally over and I felt a rushing sense of independence as I stepped into my first real apartment. Dorming was a great experience, but being a college freshman is such a transitory hold-your-hand period: the meal plan, constant supervision from RAs, mandatory house meetings, living in close quarters with eighty something other people, not to mention sharing those tiny laundry rooms and kitchens.
So far my second year has been a dream, a breath of fresh air: only three roommates, my own room, a single shared bathroom, a full sized kitchen and, most importantly, air conditioning. Vista Del Campo is a little further off campus, but is still just an Anteater Express ride away. I feel at peace to have my own quiet work space and thankful to live in such a beautiful, safe town. I felt invincible and completely safe… up until last Saturday.
I live on the end of the third floor, which is quite the hike up the stairs and back. The weekend had already been busy for me, and I was taking a little bit of time to myself to catch some fresh air and clear my thoughts. I was sitting on my bed listening to music with my window and blinds cracked open. I reached over my bed to quickly grab my laptop from the top of my dresser when I noticed something unusual outside of my window: there was a man standing outside the corner of my window, and at first I was confused. Was it one of my roommate’s boyfriends waiting for her to come home? Was he there waiting for a friend?
After a few seconds of watching him, I panicked with horror as I realized what was happening. His zipper was undone and his hands were slowly and inappropriately moving around in his pants. Seconds after I realized what was happening, I screamed a few profanities at him and threatened that he had better get out of there fast because I was calling the police.
Startled and unaware that I had been watching him, he sprinted away at full speed. I called UCIPD and grabbed my roommate and my pepper spray to investigate, but he was far gone. I was shaken up and scared to say the least. Had I been targeted by a pervert? How long was he watching me before I noticed him? Or was he just a drunk wanderer on the third floor as the officer later insisted? I didn’t have any answers, and unfortunately still don’t. I felt violated and uncomfortable in my own home.
Although I was thankful that the officer came quickly and was kind, I felt that my case was swept under the rug. The incident was not reported in that week’s newspaper, nor was a safety email sent out. This is disturbing to me considering the history and frequency of these types of exposure reports on and off campus. I understand that since I was not physically assaulted and did not see any private body parts that my case was considered less severe, but I think the least that could have been done would be to alert the other residents in my complex. The officer did, however, get the UCI CARE center involved to talk this incident through and gave me some tips about how to stay safe for the coming year.
I now have thick curtains hanging above my windows to give me peace of mind, and I am ashamed to say that I am the one who has to take precautions to avoid another situation like this. I have not opened my windows or blinds since that night.
All of this begs the question: how many reports similar to mine are we not made aware of? When do we say that we’ve had enough of inappropriate behavior and put up surveillance cameras around our apartments?
Irvine is a safe city, and UCI is a safe campus. It is somewhere where you should feel protected — because you are. Unfortunately, people are aware of this and come here to take advantage of the sense of safety that we share.
Since my ordeal, I’ve learned that it’s the little things you can do to protect yourself. The first few weeks of fall are when the campus experiences a spike in crime reports. Don’t leave the house without checking that your windows and doors are locked. Do not leave your backpack or laptop unattended, even if it is just for a minute. If you’re walking alone late at night and feel uncomfortable, UCI has a free Safety Escort service to walk you home to any campus housing; the service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Also, have UCIPD’s number saved in your phone. Take note of where the blue emergency lights are located around campus.
If you see something, say something. Be aware of your surroundings because you never know who’s watching you.
Emilia Williamson is a second year Literary Journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.