Well, ladies and gentlemen. By the grace of the dark forces of the underworld, we have made it to the end of Spooky Season. If you, like me, read new Chronicle articles as soon as they come out, your eyes should be scanning these words mere hours from the darkest night of the year—Halloween. 

Since we were little, we’ve been told horrifying tales about what happens on Halloween: stories about ghosts roaming the streets, blades being hidden in children’s candy or masked murderers waiting just beyond the tree line. Though their degrees of truth vary, each of these tales paralyzes us with fear. 

But to me, the most frightening threat this and every Halloween doesn’t involve the walking dead or a foreign object in my Skittles: the scariest part of Halloween actually haunts Duke year-round. It lurks in the shadows of our  learning environments, the gym and even our own extracurriculars. What I am afraid of most this Halloween is the looming presence of sexual assault and harassment on this campus. 

There are many ways sexual assault haunts each and every one of us. The first is in the comments that we make. Understand that one of the best parts about Halloween is getting to dress as someone or something else for a couple of hours. The quickest way to ruin someone else’s evening is to say any version of, “that costume is a little slutty, don’t you think?” or “wow, you’re showing off a lot,” or “are you sure you don’t want to put a jacket on?” If we are to take sexual harassment and assault seriously, we have to change the way we talk about a person’s right to their own body. If your biggest bro wants to go to Franklin Street with nothing but a speedo, goggles, and an open M. Phelps Olympic jacket, he is allowed that right. Similarly, if your homegirl wants to recreate Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda cover art before going to the kickback, she is allowed that right. People should be able to enjoy Halloween without fear of being judged or chastised for the way they express themselves. 

The second way Halloween is instantly ruined for someone else is by the actions we allow as bystanders. As the night goes on and festivities ramp up, being an active bystander is the best way to prevent an event that might haunt someone for rest of their life. 

“Well, Ryan, how exactly do I intervene?” 

Glad you asked! When your friend makes a comment about someone that you wouldn’t want to be made about you, tell them to chill out. If you notice someone taking advantage of another person who is obviously too drunk to consent, step in and de-escalate the situation. If all else fails, pretend to be an old friend of someone in a compromising position to repel potential creeps. Being an active bystander is all about intervening on someone else’s behalf to ensure the safety of all parties. If you still need more information about being an active bystander and how you can help, get PACT and Party Monitor trained.

The third, and by no means final, way sexual assault impacts all of us is in its ability to completely alter lives. Halloween, sadly, creates a culture where these events have the potential to be more common than they already are. If we have learned anything from the #MeToo movement, the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, or from student leaders on this very campus, it’s that one interaction can damage an entire life for a survivor. And often, justice is never realized as their assaulters continue to live their lives and even get appointed to the highest court in the land. We don’t need more Brett Kavanaughs. We need students who are willing to stop these situations from occurring in the first place.

Halloween is meant to be a scary night. The dead are supposed to walk among us as strangers knock on random doors and receive candy from homeowners. Despite its origins, Halloween has been a fun staple of life for many of us since we were little. As we got older, the fun has only intensified, but so has the possibility of real danger. So, as we take part in the traditions of America’s favorite scary holiday, let’s make sure that what we say and do this Halloween doesn’t make someone’s reality a living nightmare. Look out for your friends, look out for yourself and be an active bystander. Once the calendar flips over to November 1st, remember the steps you took to make sure everyone made it home safe and employ those steps each and every time you go out.

Ryan Williams is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays.