According to CNN, on Sept. 13, 18-year-old sophomore Hannah Graham disappeared after going out one night in Charlottesville, Va. She was a student at the University of Virginia where she did well in academics and participated in sports. She was at a party that night and was later recorded wandering alone to a pub, mall, gas station, restaurant and eventually a bar. Then she vanished.
A suspect, thirty-two-year-old Jesse Matthews, was arrested this week in relation to the disappearance. He was seen with Hannah the night of her disappearance, and now it seems he has a record of previous sexual assault. Fox News then reported that he was accused of two previous assaults this year, but both accusations never resulted in an actual charge against Matthews.
The Virginia State Police have now released that there may be a possible DNA-related connection between Matthews and the disappearance of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington, who disappeared in 2009 after attending a concert in Charlottesville. Her body was later found in January of 2010. This adds a chilling aspect to the possible whereabouts of Hannah Graham. Where is she, and will she be found alive?
Hannah Graham’s disappearance is creating more questions at this point than it has answered. Why were Matthews’ previous sexual assault allegations dropped and not investigated? Why was she walking around Charlottesville alone at night? Why does she appear lost and confused, when witnesses say at the party she first attended, she only had one drink, and she was also very familiar with the area? In an interview with CNN, her high school softball coach says she was “the kind of child that was going to change the world. This is a kid, who was pre-med. Again, as a junior in high school she took the SATs and scored so high she never had to take them again. This is not the typical child that would be in this situation” (Craig Maniglia to CNN). Of course the most important question is simply: Where is she now?
Hannah Graham’s case should serve as a warning to all college students. Although we think we are; we are not invincible, and we should always be careful. The sad thing is that most students really don’t even know who Hannah Graham is, let alone are able to learn from her. Every student I asked for comment on Hannah Graham either responded “Who?” or “Should I know her?” This proves that most people either don’t care or just aren’t informed. It’s hard to learn from other’s mistakes so as not to repeat them when you don’t even know that large-scale cases such as Hannah Graham’s are even going on. History has a way of repeating itself, and it’s often because people don’t learn from the mistakes of others.
On the subject of public safety at Manhattan College. freshman John Martelotti, says, “I feel security guards on this campus are more strict during the daytime than they are at night. Public safety needs to be improved. The blue lights near Kelly Commons are out of order, which I feel is very dangerous for students walking back from Leo late at night. I also feel it takes public safety longer than they should to email us about incidents that occur on and off campus and there is no reason I should have to scan my ID at two in the afternoon when I’m rushing and trying to get to class, and they should start to scan at night just like the bridge does. There needs to be more blue lights installed and I feel there should be security walking around campus.”
The unsafe atmosphere that pervades the side of campus near Overlook Manor and Jasper Deli is further advanced by the numerous public safety emails that roll in from time to time about shots fired and public indecency. And these are only the incidences that the college informs us about. Most students I talked to expressed that they feel a lot safer on campus than off campus and that public safety has a few flaws.
I personally feel safe in amongst a decent group of people, but I would never wander around the Kelly Commons alone at night. I wouldn’t even walk to Jasper’s Deli by myself in the daytime. My friends and I have all personally had instances where we all have felt unsafe walking off-campus at night. However, campus security does it’s best to help students feel safe, and everyone I have asked agreed that they haven’t felt nearly as threatened while on campus. Hannah Graham shows that even if you are familiar with an area, bad things can still happen.
The main point that we should learn from Hannah is to never travel alone. Hannah was vulnerable not only because she was intoxicated, but also because she was by herself. She became an easy target and someone took advantage of it. Although what happened to Hannah Graham occurred over 300 miles away in Virginia, it poses a tragic example of the vulnerability of college students, especially young women. From one young college female to another, watch what you drink, travel in groups and always be aware of your surroundings. We aren’t as invincible as we think we are. Just remember that, so a tragedy like Hannah Graham’s doesn’t happen closer to home.