Hannah Graham: Another Reminder That We Must Keep Ourselves Safe

I shouldn’t have gotten pepper spray as a going away to college present.

I shouldn’t have to be told during my freshman orientation that the buddy system will be a code to live by for the rest of our lives.

Hannah Graham should have never come into contact with Jesse Mathews.

On September 13, UVA Sophomore Hannah Graham went missing after a night out with her friends. Ever since her announced disappearance, the story has been one heart wrenching revelation after another.

The last text seen by friends mentioned she was lost, and later video surveillance showed she had been wandering downtown by herself. It also showed 32 year old, Jesse Matthews, the primary person of interest suspiciously interacting with the 18 year old. Matthews has been charged with abduction and attempt to defile in the case of Hannah Graham, but that wasn’t the end. Jesse Matthews has also been linked to the disappearance of Morgan Harrington in Charlottesville, VA, and accused of two different sexual assault cases each on a different college campus in 2002 and 2003.

With two sexual assault cases against him and now a possible link to a murder case we have to question how Jesse Mathews was  allowed roam free on the streets that morning, and how he was able to put his arm around an innocent 18 year old college student. Is this yet another example of the lack of attention to sexual assault cases and the downplaying of a possible threat?

UVA is not far from where I attend university, or the town where I grew up. I’ve watched people gather to search, pray, and call attention to the search for Hannah, and friends of that area advocate and update continuously on social media. I’ve watched as the Charlottesville, VA community has once again become solemn with another disappearance of a young female. College campuses everywhere are digesting the reality that threats lurk behind single decisions and young female students are once again reminded of the battle against sexual assault.

I have always been a firm believer in solving the source of the problem, and have been frustrated with the idea that we are always preaching ways in which to prevent being the victim when we should be seeking to eliminate the  need for  organizations called, “Help Save the Next Girl,” and finding ways of preventing people from becoming sexual predators.  How sad it is we have to anticipate the loss of another daughter, mother,  or sister to sexual violence. Jesse Matthews was accused twice and now is connected to a death and a disappearance of two girls. Morgan Dana Harrington’s father, Dan Harrington,  stated a fear that stretches beyond the actions of Jesse Matthews,”If you look at the number of cases in central Virginia, there is a large number. And it’s a little scary to think: If he’s not associated with more of them, then there are other people that you have to worry about.” 

It sickens me to suggest that we must take so many preventative measures when we make the simple choice to go out and have fun. However, being so close to the pain that this family, community, and school have been facing for nearly a month has only shown me just how much we must take it upon ourselves in order to save another girl who could very well be someone we know. 

Below are a few resources to keep you and your friends safe & fight sexual assault:

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Help Save The Next Girl

(organization created by Morgan Dana Harrington’s Parents)

url       Circle of 6       

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Kitestring

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UASK (Washington D.C. area)

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10 Ways to Fight Sexual Assault

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Campus Safety

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