Katherine Wong/Contributing Writer
A 21-year-old man rides on a skateboard into the establishment I’m working at. The only difference between he and I is that he has a gun in his pocket, and I don’t.
Being held at gunpoint wasn’t something I envisioned ever happening to me, but it did. After the incident, my sense of self was destroyed. I no longer felt safe within my own home, I feared that he would somehow find me, and every little creak, whistle or movement would startle me, and make me go back into the moment.
I fell into a state of depression, and I was on the brink of no longer being able to function.
We all ask ourselves what we would do if held at gunpoint. Would I run away? Would I freeze up and do absolutely nothing? Would I have a massive wave of adrenaline go through my body, causing me to fight off the gunman? Would I oblige to the gunman’s request and do absolutely everything they say? The harsh reality is, you’ll never actually know what you would do, or rather, how you would react until you’re forced into this situation itself.
While reading WikiHow articles can educate you on how to deal with an armed robbery, there is absolutely nothing you can do to fully prepare yourself. Rather, this just causes massive paranoia and fabricates the idea that you’ll be able to handle an armed robbery with grace and precaution. When seeking help online, there is little information to help victims of armed robberies. There’s merely stories published online of other survivors in place of advice and methods to cope with such a traumatic event.
This was absolutely no help to me and, in return, made me feel even more isolated than I was. It also didn’t help that armed robberies are a common occurrence within the United States, with an estimated robbery rate of 98 robberies for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to a 2017 statement from the FBI.
Being raised overseas did not prepare me for the harsh reality of gun violence in the United States. I grew up in Hong Kong, a city in which weapons are highly regulated, where police officers carry batons instead of guns. I was never exposed to guns, and the looming threat of any type of gun violence was non-existent.
Before I came to FIU, I made sure to research how safe the University is. The FIU Police Department is “committed to improving the quality of life in a collaborative effort with community members while enforcing state laws and university policies in a professional manner,” according to FIU Student Affairs. We have a campus police station, an app similar to that of “Find my Friends” and a strictly enforced no weapons policy.
Yet the fear of not knowing if someone in my classes or in my residence hall carries a concealed weapon absolutely terrifies me. After all, Florida is a state that grants the right for someone to carry a concealed weapon. While this is a factor in my paranoia, the chances of someone actually carrying a weapon on campus are improbable.
FIU also offers support for victims through both the Victim Empowerment Program and Counseling and Psychological Services. Here students a person can receive free, confidential counseling services aimed at protecting students and their safety. For a person like me, this can mean finding sanctuary, answers and much needed support. These services have helped me further process what happened to me and have given me clarity.
With on-campus police, a range of safety regulations such as the no weapons policy, and options for students to seek help when needed, FIU is an incredibly safe school. Even with my own personal doubts and fears regarding campus safety, this does not deter me from attending the institution, as I know FIU is the right school for me.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
Featured photo by Eduardo Merille on FIU Flickr.