Campus Crisis: Meaghan, Thomas

Warning Signs?

"Within Meaghan's first weeks of school, she had run-ins with two different guys," says Lyn, Meaghan's mother. "The first one, she called me and said, ‘Mom, I just need to let you know what's going on. There is a police officer in my room.' My daughter shared with me that she had a conversation with this guy, and it had escalated to where he was in her room and refused to leave."

"The guy kept telling me, ‘You owe me. You owe me. You owe me,' and the next thing that the guy told me was, ‘I own your soul,'" Meaghan says.

"Within a week, my daughter calls me, again at 3:00 in the morning and says, ‘Mom, I just need you to know I'm at the police station.' My heart stopped. My daughter shared with me that it was a different guy," Lyn says.

"I get a phone call, and it was from this guy that I knew. He said that he was thoroughly intoxicated, and he asked if I would give him a ride back. So I got in my car, and I drove to where the guy said he was. So we get back to the dorm building, and there are a bunch of people standing our front, and he was trying to start a fight, and the fact is that he did start throwing punches, and I took one right to the throat. I called the police, and I informed them ‘We have a man here who's out of control. Something has to be done,'" Meaghan says.

"The campus did everything right. They responded above and beyond, but us parents, we'll never feel comfortable again. I told Meaghan, ‘The next situation that comes up, show up with your bags. Don't even call. You're coming home,'" Lyn says.

"What's going on? Are you, like, a magnet for this?" Dr. Phil asks Meaghan.

"I don't know. That's what I want to figure out," she says. "Both of these incidences occurred within my first month at school. It really left me thinking, well, what am I doing or what am I doing wrong? Is it a certain type of guy that I'm bringing around that I shouldn't? Or is it just, like my mom thinks, maybe I'm being too nice and helping these people out too much?"

"Well, are you being too nice?" Dr. Phil asks.

"There's a good chance," Meaghan says.

"She's always been a servant to others," Lyn says. "She's always wanted to help everybody and take care of people."

Dr. Phil notes that Meaghan was helping this guy with academics. "When was the first time you felt really uncomfortable?"

"When he told me he owned my soul," she says. "He and I had been friends for a short while. We were in our class one day, and I hadn't been feeling well, so he walked with me back to my dorm room because he lived in my building, to make sure I got there safely, and I was OK. He kept telling me, ‘You owe me for this. You owe me,' and I was like, ‘OK, whatever,' and then he finally looked at me and said, ‘No, Meaghan, I own your soul.' And I thought, ‘He's joking maybe,' and I just let it go, and he actually brought that up on more than one occasion."

Meaghan says there was also an occasion when he wouldn't leave her dorm room. "The next day he showed up at my room unexpected, uninvited, unannounced; just walked in and sat down in a chair right in the middle of the room."

Dr. Phil turns to Thomas Kane, president of The Campus Safety Zone. "Thomas, obviously, we have someone here who has a problem drawing boundaries. What should a college student do when someone is really kind of stalking them, crowding them, invading their space, not allowing them to be comfortable, even in their own space?"

"Three words: control the situation," he says. "Unfortunately, what happened to Meaghan does happen to college students every year, so you're not alone, Meaghan. It's important that young coeds really empower themselves and take a firm stand."

Dr. Phil tells Meaghan, "If you were my daughter, I'd have told you to say to him, ‘You don't own anything, bucko, and you need to step off,' and if that doesn't work, then I would've been calling the campus police."

Thomas agrees. "You said exactly what I was going to say. The first comment I would've said is, ‘You control nothing. You own nothing, and I don't want to hear it again.' It puts that guy automatically on notice that Meaghan's not going to listen to his garbage."

"Yeah, you teach people how to treat you," Dr. Phil says. "There is such a thing as being too nice. You really do enable people by giving them too much latitude, and you need to put out a boundary and say, ‘You just crossed it, buddy. You don't talk to me that way. You need to leave,' and if they don't leave, you need to call somebody who can enforce that."

In the second incident, a drunken student hit Meaghan, and this time, she called the police.

"I needed a ride because I was just really, really drunk," Justin remembers. "Meaghan got punched. I would never hit a girl intentionally. What happened was she stepped in front of me before I was going to get into a fight. She tried to get me calmed down. I was just incoherent at the time. I wasn't thinking clearly."

Meaghan explains to Dr. Phil that she received a phone call at 1:45 a.m. from Justin, who was drunk and needed a ride back to campus. She agreed to pick him up.

"OK, so somebody calls you at 1:45 in the morning, drunk, and you're tucked away in your room, safe and sound, but you get out, and get in your car and go collect this drunk guy?" Dr. Phil asks her.

"I did think ahead," she says. "I took another guy with me, a guy friend of mine who was completely sober. But I wanted to make sure that he made it home safely."

"OK, so a fight ensues and you get punched," Dr. Phil says. He turns to Justin. "What's up with this?"

"I had an altercation with another guy. I see him outside my dorms, so after that, I just dropped my backpack, you know, I was about to go at him, and she stepped in front of me, at the very last second," Justin says.

"No, I don't know," Dr. Phil says. "What are you doing fighting at 1:45 in the morning on campus? What was the big fight about?"

"He called me, just cursing me out. So I just hung up on him, and I was just going to leave it at that. And after that, he's standing outside my dorm. He says something to me, you know, and that's just kind of when I go off," he explains.

"And so, in that melee, you punch Meaghan in the neck," Dr. Phil says.

"I really don't remember," he says. "Most likely, I think I pushed her."

"OK. What did you want to say?"

"Meaghan, I am sorry," Justin says. "You know, I was just really intoxicated that night. I didn't mean to. I drank a little bit too much for my own good. And if I had to say anything to anybody else, you know, control your alcohol. You've got to know your limits to drink."

When Dr. Phil asks for Meaghan's reaction, she says, "I'm not mad at him whatsoever for what happened. I do understand that he was intoxicated, that he would not have done this if he had been sober, but that just leads to a lot of disappointment in the fact that he would let himself get to this point where he had no control of his actions."

After reiterating to Meaghan that she needs to learn to put up boundaries, Dr. Phil asks Thomas about his top five tips every college student should know to stay safe.


Never walk alone. "It's imperative, Dr. Phil, that students are aware of their surroundings at all times. Eighty to 85 percent of all college crime is student on student," Thomas says.

Limit alcohol. "Alcohol is the number one problem on every college campus in this country. If you decide to drink alcohol, you are increasing your risk of being victimized on campus," he says.

No iPod or ATMs at night. "Certainly at night time, with an iPod, it's dark to begin with. When you put an iPod in your ears, you've lost a second sense, and that's your hearing," Thomas says. Also, "It's important to get into a habit of using your ATM in the daylight hours. There's a lot of ATMs around. Or try to find one in a well-lit area."

Change route/routine. "Don't become predictable," he says.

Give someone your schedule. "Get in the habit of letting your roommate know, letting another trusted friend know. Give them your schedule, ask for their schedule. Put it in the same spot in a desk, somewhere in your room. Don't post it on an outside whiteboard. Let them know where you're going to be. Let them know who you're going to be with," he says.

"Gloria, these things are actionable," Dr. Phil says. "I don't care if it's a fellow student, if it's on campus, off campus, when somebody violates your person, when somebody puts their hands on you, when somebody crosses that barrier, that is actionable."

"It can be, yes, and I think it's time for action in certain cases because I think that's the way we win change. And that's why I'm so proud of Cynthia fighting for Megan, and Sean fighting for Megan, because they want to make colleges safer in the future," Gloria says. "And by the way, we do want to educate young women, but we also want to educate young men about the boundaries and the respect they need to have for women. Make the campuses safe, educate their students, and then we'll have a learning environment to be proud of."

 

Dr. Phil addresses Meaghan's mother, Lyn, who wants Meaghan to come home so she's safe. "Don't do that. Don't bring her home. That's moving backward. And listen, the number one way that we can protect our children, whether they're 2, 3, 4, 14 or 19, is to teach them to self-protect. Because I don't care how much of a helicopter mom you are, how much you hover, how much you call, you can't be there 24/7. You've got to teach her. What she needs to do is learn to be safe in that environment, because it's a stepping stone to the rest of her life. And to bring her back home is the wrong direction."

 

He tells Meaghan, "It's your responsibility to take care of yourself first. You've got to take care of yourself before you can take care of others."