Facebook group offers safe escorts

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Men across campus have stepped up in response to the recent sexual assaults to make sure their female counterparts get to and from their destinations safely.

A Facebook group, the SDSU Safe Walk Brigade, was recently created to give women another safe walking option in addition to the SDSU Police Department’s escort service.

Men join the group if they are willing to walk women to and from their cars or to locations both on and off campus. Women join so they know who they can call if they want someone to walk with them or drive them somewhere at night.

“My phone is always on ring,” said Nathan Hofer, one of the group’s creators. “I’m ready and willing to help.”

Male students can leave their phone numbers on the group’s wall, but it is not a requirement to join. For safety reasons, women should not put their phone numbers up, and they should only call men they trust from the group. If women do not feel comfortable with any of the group members, they are encouraged to call the SDSUPD escort service at 605-688-5117.

“We want people to feel safe, and not only to feel safe, but to actually be safe, too,” Hofer said.

Dan Amen, a junior theatre major, and Hofer, a graduate student, created the Safe Walk Brigade to not only give women more options but also to raise awareness after the three recent sexual assaults. They have posted information on the group about upcoming self-defense classes and about the Take Back the Night event that happened on April 23. Community Assistants have written on the wall, saying that they, too, can be asked to walk with women at night.

“I’ve never had to ask one of the guys who have put their information on the page (to walk with me), but it is definitely nice knowing that if I have no one else, that there are a ton of guys willing to help out,” said Chelsea Louder, a second-year graphic design major. “I think it makes girls on campus feel a lot more safe, especially at night.”

The idea to start the group came after Hofer said in his Facebook status that he was willing to walk with female friends at night. Amen told Hofer that he was going to steal his status, and then Amen decided to create a group. The SDSU Safe Walk Brigade was created in the early hours of Wednesday morning &- just hours before police announced that they had arrested someone for the recent assaults.

In the days following, group membProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0

ship grew exponentially before taperinProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 off toward the weekend. As of April 26, 713 people were members of the group, and about 40 men had left their numbers.

“I was really moved by the Safe Walk Brigade,” said Jackie Fitzgerald, a junior in the Agricultural Communication Department. “I think the amount of numbers and offers for escorts was awesome, and I’m glad people are trying to continue the group to ensure this does not happen again.”

Amen and Hofer both said they hope safety awareness does not dwindle at SDSU after this semester. The two hope to keep the Safe Walk Brigade running for at least a couple more years, as Hofer will be at SDSU for at least another year and Amen will be here for two more.

“Keep your safety in mind as your number one priority,” Amen said.

Catherine Grandorff, an organizer of the recent Week to End Violence Against Women, said that while the recent incidents brought sexual assault to the forefront, people should always be aware of the issues of violence against women. She encouraged men to respect women in all situations in order to help prevent assault and violence against women.

“Don’t just walk them home,” she said. “Extend respect to women in all areas, and that goes deeper than holding a door open.”

As part of SDSU’s Week to End Violence Against Women, organizers held a Take Back the Night event, encouraging everyone to join the international movement to stand up against sexual violence and violence against women. SDSU’s Take Back the Night event on April 23 started at The Union with a rally, and then about 30 marchers made a couple loops around the building, yelling such chants as, “Hey hey, ho ho, date rape has got to go.”

“Take Back the Night is designed to empower primarily women to feel safe in their own communities,” said Grandorff, a senior Spanish and English major. “Women should not have to feel scared, should not have to feel afraid to walk across their own campus.”

As for the Safe Walk Brigade, Grandorff also advised women that they should only call men from the group that they trust.

“I appreciate what they are doing,” she said. “Guys have to be part of the solution to end violence against women.”