Campus safety: Responsibility is the key
By Paul Dunn, The Daily Reflector
Friday, June 03, 2005
Enjoy the campus, but take responsiblity for your safety, guest speaker Robert Martin said Thursday before a group at East Carolina University.
"Everybody is capable of great violence," he said. "Everybody, everybody."
Martin, a 28-year-veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and now vice president of Los Angeles-based Gavin de Becker & Associates, a 100-person consulting firm that advises businesses and individuals on the risks of potentially violent situations, spoke at Hendrix Theatre in Mendenhall Student Center before about 60 people concerned about the threat of violence on the ECU campus.
The ECU Police and Campus Safety departments sponsored the lecture.
"I don't think ECU has the primary responsibility for keeping everyone safe," Martin said after his prepared campus and community safety lecture. "They (ECU officials) are responsible for removing hazards, but the goal is for them to help people recognize that they (students, faculty, staff, guests) are responsible for their own safety."
Martin said that while the United States is safer today than 40 or so years ago when he was a kid – especially on university campuses – he peppered his almost two-hour presentation with a variety of memorable principles.
He began by comparing a bit of his early life in a small New Jersey town to the "Happy Days" television show. Some years later, after investigating the first of the more than 500 homicides he would probe with the LAPD, his life abruptly changed.
"It took me from 'Happy Days' to the real world," he told the audience.
Using a large visual screen to aid him during his lecture, Martin explored how people can cope with the real world and remain safe.
Believe the heretofore unbelievable in people, he stressed.
"If you can't believe it, you can't predict it. If you can't predict it, you can't prevent it," he contended. "Serial killers are not inhuman. Just the opposite. They're precisely human."
Choose your friends wisely and definitively, he suggested.
"Make careful, slow choices about the people you allow into your life and fast choices about the ones you exclude," he said.
Get concerns off your chest, regardless of the perceived social slights that may incur, he said. Thoroughly check out your baby sitter, for instance, he suggested.
"The key is: Ask the questions you want the answers to," he said.
Violence often is not about an individual or individuals. It's more about context, he asserted.
"The assessment of dangerousness is not an assessment of an individual. It is an assessment of a situation," he said.
Violence is a process, he explained. Keep your senses alert for signs of it.
"Nobody ever, ever, ever just snaps," he said.
Trust and respect your intuition, he stressed.
"There is no mystery of human behavior that cannot be solved in your mind or heart," he said. "Intuition is nature's way of telling you that there is a hazard and to check it out. Human beings are the only creatures on Earth who will override their intuition."
Try hard not to worry, he said. It's counterproductive.
"Worry is not a precaution, it's a distraction," he said. "Some people think that worrying is taking action, but it's really putting off action."
If you're being stalked, take definitive action, he urged. Don't equivocate.
"Persistence only proves persistence," he said. "It does not prove love. When a woman tells a man she doesn't want a relationship, she should only have to say it once. Conditional rejections are not rejections. They are discussions. When you say 'no' to someone, mean it."
Martin saved some of his most virulent criticism for television news, blaming the medium for promoting the myth that society's victims can't defend themselves.
"TV news uses unwarranted, manufactured fear to lure audiences," Martin said. "My advice is: Turn it off. Turn off the sensational, uninspirational, privacy-meddling, fear-peddling, celebrity-snooping, rumor-repeating, violence-promoting TV news."
Paul Dunn can be contacted at email@example.com or 329-9566.