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SOUTH SIDE SLAYINGS: A LESSON IN FEAR AT TCU

By D Magazine |

Along with textbooks and classroom supplies sold at the TCU bookstore, there’s a new product on the shelf: Mace.

The tear gas, which stings an attacker’s eyes and buys valuable escape time for a victim, is just one sign of the fear and anger that’s circulating around the college campus these days. Today it’s not uncommon to see male students escorting young women to and from classes. Off campus, young women are locking their apartment doors at sunset, never venturing outside until daylight.

Charles Eklund, manager of the nearby Century Bookstore, says that business has not slowed since news of the disappearance and murders of several young women began surfacing, but video rental sales have gone up, perhaps reflecting the tendency to stay home.

Dorothy Riker of Dance Concept says that students are showing up for classes as always, but that women are making an effort to watch out for each other.

In some ways, TCU has become as much of a victim as its coeds. Students returned from the holidays only to learn that the remains of a young woman’s body were found in a drainage ditch on campus. The discovery fueled the anxiety of parents and students already alarmed by the murder or disappearance of several South Fort Worth women.

TCU Chancellor William Thicker sent information sheets to all students, and phone calls from parents have been continuous. Several fraternities have organized escort services for students, dorm meetings are frequent, and administrators anticipate a reduction in night class attendance.

Fear has turned to anger for many young women, says Jean Giles-Sims, an associate professor of sociology at TCU. And that anger is intensified every time more evidence is found.

A young woman’s reaction is largely based on whether she identifies with the murdered victims and how much she feels she can protect herself, Giles-Sims says. The bottom line for most women is that they could not withstand an attack because they’re smaller than men and sexually vulnerable. Many coeds knew TCU victim Cindy Heller.

But women aren’t the only victims. Brothers and male friends are put in a role of being very protective.

After the initial stage of fear passes, some people sink into denial while others are angry about the restrictions placed on them.

“A lot of women are just plain angry,” Giles-Sims says. “They know they shouldn’t go to a bar alone, they know they shouldn’t stop for a motorist on the road, but they’re so angry about the restrictions placed on their lives that they might take chances. After all, in most cases, the situation has taken away the rights of women and not men.”

Dave Hulac of Quality Guns says that arm sales have increased by more than 200 percent during the past few months. And the buyers aren’t just attractive young women either, he says. Husbands, fathers, boyfriends and women in their 60s have been purchasing guns at a rate of about 10 sales per day.