University of Glasgow student is trying to prevent assaults near campus before they happen, by tackling the dangers of walking home alone.
Second year Neuroscience student Amara Coelho has set up a Facebook group that enables students to walk home from campus together, following the confirmation from Police Scotland and The University of Glasgow of four alleged cases of sexual assault in the West End during October. Coelho stated that she felt there weren’t enough preventative measures on campus to protect potential victims.
RouteBuddy is a Facebook group where University of Glasgow students who are walking home alone on campus or in the West End area can ask if anyone would like to walk with them. Students post their general location, the time they are leaving and their general destination, then anyone interested in joining them sends a private message.
“If students don’t feel safe at least they have an option to potentially walk with someone,” Coelho said. “I know not everyone wants to walk with someone and it’s not something that needs to be frequently used, but the group is there for those who need it.”
Coelho said she does not allow students to post their exact location or any specifics for safety reasons. The group is set to "private" and moderated by Coelho and two of her friends who screen potential users to find evidence that they are actual students at the University.
Within two weeks the group has grown to over 980 members.
Tomasz Kleckzkowski, a third year Electronics and Music student, has been a member of RouteBuddy since it was founded. He said that while no one has responded to his requests to walk home together, RouteBuddy has the potential to work for those who need it.
“I don't live in Glasgow so I only have to walk to the subway or bus stations and have never felt that I needed to have someone walk with me. But I am appalled at the attacks that have happened recently and would love to help others get home safely,” Kleckzkowski said. “I would be more than happy to take a detour from my usual walk.”
There are still some issues Coelho and other members are trying to work out that will increase engagement. Currently students must private message if they can walk home with someone, but do not often comment on the post that they are doing so. Some students do not respond to requests because they assume others have, therefore leaving some students without a walking buddy.
Kleczkowski said he doesn’t want to appear “creepy” if he posts that he is in the area and can walk home with someone too often but hopes eventually the group will work as intended.
“I can understand people not wanting to meet with a stranger, even if they are part of the group,” Kleckzkowski said.
Coelho said the group may not be needed as much in the summer when daylight is longer, but hopes by then the University will have more safety measures to combat sexual assault.
Currently students can use the GUSRC safe taxi scheme by calling 0141 429 7070 and quoting “Get Home Safe” and “GU1”. Once they give the operator their surname and GUID, a taxi will be dispatched to pick them up. Students can hand the driver their student card as payment and collect it at the SRC Welcome Point after 24 hours. Students who do not have their card can have the operator confirm with the University Gatehouse of their student status.
However, this process still involves students paying for the taxi when they go to the SRC Welcome Point, which may be a deterrent if the student feels pressured to walk home for free.
“Adding better lighting and more security doesn’t stop the fact that people will be walking on their own,” Coelho said.