Opinion: Street harassment makes campus unsafe

I don’t think I ever understood what catcalling was until I came to USC.

Back at home, I had never been yelled at from passing cars or “mooed” at by groups of grown men, but here, it's happened more than I thought possible. Almost everyone I know has stories of people screaming unwelcome sexual comments or offensive slurs, and that does not translate into a comfortable and welcoming school environment.

The debate on whether catcalling is synonymous with harassment has become tiresome. Catcalling, in every sense, is a form of sexual and verbal harassment, and its commonality on campus is worrying.

I like to think that I'm the safest I could be when I walk to my residence hall after a long night at the library, but when I hear footsteps or a random voice, I am immediately paranoid. It doesn’t help that it has already been proven to me that anyone could come along and immediately make me feel unsafe with one quick sound. I thought, as per usual, maybe I was just being a bit over-dramatic. But, upon further investigation, it is more common than I believed.

Already, women are afraid to walk alone at night, and while USC assures students that there are “law enforcement professionals working diligently around the clock to provide a safe, secure campus environment,” it is hard to believe them when people are constantly proving it wrong.

I don’t mean to put this on the law professionals of Columbia, but it certainly doesn’t help that according to the Daily Telegraph, “those who report street harassment are regularly ridiculed in the press and depicted as over-reacting,” making it less likely for people to come forward about street harassment. However, even with the lack of court cases surrounding the harassment, I feel like we have known that catcalling is a problem for quite a while. Still, nothing substantial has been done to combat it.

For students, we have AlcoholEDU and Sexual Harassment Prevention, but it doesn’t cover the absurd amount of verbal harassment that happens to women on campus. Sure, some people are able to simply brush it off as rude comments, but why should they? It shouldn’t be their problem to deal with harassment. It is time for us to hold the people who make campus feel unsafe responsible for their actions.


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