When I envision UNC, I think of a few trademark places that are undeniably Carolina.
Carolina is the Old Well. Carolina is the Bell Tower and Wilson Library. Carolina is the Chapel Hill mural behind He’s Not Here.
But if Carolina is Franklin Street, I don’t feel safe here.
Last week, while meeting a friend for boba on Franklin, I was followed for multiple blocks by a group of men. Yesterday, I was harassed both on the walk to and from Target. Even while walking to The Daily Tar Heel's office to pitch this article, I was catcalled twice.
Saying the words “I don’t like Franklin Street” seemed akin to Carolina blasphemy. Unwilling to deal with the social repercussions of voicing my aberrant opinion, I kept my feelings about it quiet.
The reality is, women are used to dealing with constant harassment from men. I’ve practiced keeping my discomfort subdued for the entirety of my life.
I arrived to Cha House after being followed, and fully committed to talking about my workload and the weather. I showed up to Target and immediately focused on finding the flavor of Clif Bars I wanted. I pitched this article well enough to get the green light from my editor.
So it’s fine, right?
Even if I voiced my discomfort about harassment on Franklin Street, I know there would be little result.
Tucker Frey was reported for aggressive harassment (including following multiple women) on Franklin Street and around Chapel Hill last semester. In April, attorney Maren Hardin said Chapel Hill had received 46 reports regarding Frey's behavior since August 2020. Frey also has a criminal history of attempted kidnapping and assault.
Yet I, and many others, first heard about him through social media. Facebook groups and GroupMe chats should not be more reliable than Chapel Hill police or UNC as an institution in keeping women safe.
I don’t know what the solution is. Female harassment is so deeply embedded into modern culture that it would be naive to assume there’s a quick fix. But the solution cannot be found in putting the responsibility in women’s hands, which is what UNC has offered up until this point.
If I called the UNC harassment helpline every time I was catcalled on Franklin, they would know me on a first name basis. If all female-presenting individuals did so, their phone would never stop ringing.
It’s unreasonable and inappropriate to put the responsibility to do something about harassment on victims when the crime is so ridiculously widespread. Especially if nothing is going to result from the report.
UNC has consistently exhibited an unwillingness to put effort into keeping its students safe. For a campus infamous for its sexual assault rate, I am particularly appalled.
Male students can more easily enjoy everything Franklin Street has to offer. They can visit friends and walk down the street alone without genuine fear for their safety. They likely don’t feel the need to lace their keys through their fingers and keep their location on for their roommates at night.
I don’t get to do that. If Carolina is Franklin Street, I don’t get to enjoy Carolina.
Click here for resources for those who have experienced gender-based harassment or violence.
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