It was this time last year, when the crocus began to bloom and the snowdrops peeked their heads out of partially frozen soil, that I found a slip of paper under the windshield wiper of my rusty 1993 Buick station wagon in the back of Carmack parking lot.
I suspected it was a parking ticket. I launched into detective mode, grabbing the suspect paper from the window. Instead of a ticket, I found a sheet torn from a notebook with a handwritten note.
It was from a man who said he’d been watching and saw me every morning, had a phone number and in sloppy cursive at the bottom was signed “Jake.” I put the note in my cup holder and headed home, where I talked to my mom and sister about the mysterious Jake.
They were concerned. And as the initial flattery wore off, I began to share their sentiments. I strained my brain to figure out if there was anyone I saw regularly in the parking lot and recalled no one. Someone had been watching me for months, knew when I got to campus and what car I drove, and I had no idea who they were. But they certainly knew me.
Even if Jake was a perfectly respectable, nice (albeit shy) guy, he had never bothered to say hello, and I was startled. So I started driving a different car and switched my parking lot soon thereafter.
It might seem like an overreaction at first to change my routine and even my car, but I swear to you the fear associated with this experience is something women all over campus feel every day. With the shedding of winter layers, I would like to issue a reminder I feel, sadly, is needed: respect your fellow students.
I have felt disrespected here. I have felt horror and I have felt disgust. Sometimes it is a whistle or catcall when crossing High Street. Sometimes it is the man who tries to spark conversation and follows you for a half a mile between your classes. Sometimes it is the man who stops you, stares at your cleavage and declares that you look “very exotic.”
Sometimes it’s the man you met in front of Hagerty Hall who you hang out with once, only to have him jack off next to you at the movie theater. And sometimes it is the teaching associate who kept touching you in class and justifies it by saying you were his “crush” all semester.
The biggest issue with all of it is that nobody around ever stopped to help. If they noticed and kept moving, it is a problem. If they did not notice, it is an even bigger problem. I did not know where to go, who to turn to for help, and frankly it sucked.
Ohio State — God knows I love it — has some really screwed up issues when it comes to women. I came to OSU a naive girl, taking classes that ended after dark and was approached on the bus ride and walk to the parking lot my first night here.
Now I understand why my coworkers laughed when they pulled out their matching pink pepper spray. I get it and I carry some, too. And there lies the irony — we laugh because our safety at times feels like one gigantic joke. I do not feel safe here after dark, and I do not feel all that much safer in the light.
I do not have any perfect solutions. But I wish, I really, really wish somebody had warned me what it would actually be like to be a female student at the Ohio State University.