Julia Liggett, a freshman at MSU, hardly worries about getting home safely, even at night.
“Yeah, I feel safe. Even by myself. There’s still people out at night. There’s people everywhere, if I was by myself or something, somebody would help me.”
Unfortunately for Liggett, science argues she might not be as safe as she believes.
The bystander effect is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a group of people realize someone or something is in need of help, but assume another witness will give aid.
We’ve all been guilty of the bystander effect - when was the last time you saw someone pulled over with their hazard lights on and stopped to offer assistance?
Based on this data, a person’s sense of safety should not rely on the strangers surrounding them, no matter how many there are. Being safe in a highly populated area such as East Lansing is a matter of awareness, precaution and common sense.
According to ELPD Lt. Scott Wriggelsworth, East Lansing residents shouldn’t fear any immediate danger in the area. “EL is very safe to live, we’re not without incident, but the biggest threat, especially with house parties, is theft” he said. Wrigglesworth added that theft is especially an issue during house parties because residents leave their doors and windows unlocked. While this is a serious issue, theft does not necessarily involve violence.
East Lansing, for the most part, is safe — at least on paper.
Sexual assaults and rapes are often unreported, which makes it difficult to make any fact-based assumptions about actual safety.
When Liggett heard girls in her MSU dorm had been drugged, or “roofied," at a welcome week fraternity party, she said she was relieved the girls had not been seriously hurt. “I know at least two of the three girls spoke to someone or went to the hospital. The dorms had a meeting about what to do if something like that happens,” Liggett said.
ELPD’s Wriggelsworth said unreported, or late-reported, incidents are a concern of the ELPD. “Late reports come in, and I get that, but the [evidence] we lose often is more important than the sleep cycle,” he said. “File a police report as soon as possible and be as specific as possible. If you’ve got texts, don’t delete them. Don’t shower or wash the clothes you were in because there’s evidence. Then if we need to wait a few days for the victim to process, we can get the entire story.”
Survivors of sexual assault in East Lansing and surrounding areas can seek counseling through The Listening Ear, EVE and MSU. “It’s important to give women avenues and resources,” he said.
Women aren’t the only victims of sexual assault, but women do account for the vast majority.
“It’s uncommon [for men to report assaults], but it’s not unheard of,” Lt. Wriggelsworth said. “In a year, we’ll get one, maybe two.”
Tyler Kochanski, East Lansing resident and senior at MSU, said he often walks home alone at night and doesn’t feel any immediate danger.
“I feel safe along the edges of campus and the well-lit subdivisions at night,” Kochanski said. “I think [East Lansing] might not be as safe for women.”
For women, safety isn’t just an issue at college in general, or in East Lansing specifically. Liggett, originally from the Royal Oak, said her family taught safety differently to her than to her younger brother.
“I definitely think they won’t be as pushy with being safe because he is a boy,” she said. “They think that different rules apply. Girls are seen more as who will get hurt by someone else than a guy.”
Man or woman, safety in any city is about awareness. If possible, travel with other people. Do not accept drinks from anyone.
“The biggest thing [to stay safe] is to be cognizant of your area and try to walk in pairs or packs,” Lt. Wriggelsworth said. “You have to be your biggest proponent or safeguard. If one of your pack strays, protect them. Trust your instincts.”