It happened again.
No, that isn’t said in annoyance, more in desperate exasperation.
Another rape occurred in Laws Hall, an already infamous residence hall here at Mizzou. I mean, it has it’s own Wikipedia page that recounts residents falling to their death from balconies, in elevator shafts, and accidental auto-erotic asphyxiation hangings.
But, that is neither here nor there. This is Laws’ second case of sexual assault in a month and third in the past school year. Laws isn’t the only hall that has experienced this in the past school year, with the Rollins complex also affected by a sexual assault case in October.
As a Resident Assistant, or RA as we are known as the umbrella term to our alphabet soup of positions, I have received the clery releases with follow-up emails and talks from ResLife pro staff on how to answer residents’ questions and how to enforce safety standards. We went from locking our exterior doors earlier (from starting at 11 p.m. to starting at 8 p.m.) to being in a total lockdown 24/7 now. This means that our residents have to meet their guests at the door to let them in and escort them everywhere while they are in the building.
These safety procedures and meetings to drill it into their Polo cap adorned skulls that this is how we have to stay safe ruins any sort of street cred as a “cool RA.”
We get the annoyed sighs as the ladies find out their lover boo was told to go back outside in the cold because he tried to ghost into the building behind some unsuspecting resident (nothing gets past our desk staff). The constant “Ugh this is sooooo stupid” is always cut short when I tell them the story of the guy that snuck into Jones tunnel last year and went into residents’ rooms to look over them while they slept (have fun sleeping now).
Oh, if you didn’t know, Jones is right across from Laws. We have tunnels, that are now locked, much to the dismay of our perpetually cold and underdressed Jones women, that connect Jones, Lathrop and Laws Hall. We are are quite literally connected to anything that happens in the other halls, thus causing me near tear-inducing panic whenever something happens so close to my little resident babies. No matter how much their high-pitched squealing of my hated nickname, “Ronnie,” angers me, I would never want anything horrible to happen to them and I do what I can to prevent that.
So, it kills me that one resident in the first article I linked says how hopefully the RAs will be more alert about it. Laws Hall already trumps most halls by putting up to 4 staff members on call on the weekends, doing rounds at 8 p.m., 11 p.m. and around 1 or 2 a.m., also with doing some on call duties during the day.
RAs are human. We all get the same clery releases and feel a sort of desperation of another familiar ping of an email, one after another, blaring “There was a sexual assault…” from the first sentence.
It’s so fascinating that these residents even said something to the effect of wanting more security when they are usually the ones complaining about it and blatantly breaking it by holding the door open for people. Even when I began writing this post, the small siren of an Amber Alert resounded from iPhones up and down the hall with residents exclaiming, “Oh, another Amber Alert!” a sort of tone of concern novelty.
The repetition of these cases can do one of two things: create an increased sense of ensuring safety or desensitize people to the issue where they loosen their reigns on self-safety.
I worry that my residents will start blowing these things off because it isn’t happening to them directly, much like the distant ring of the Amber Alert. All I can do is reinforce their sense of urgency to secure themselves and let them know that I am with them in this situation. And, hopefully, that is enough.