Walking Alone: Target for Danger
Emily Margeson
emarg634@uwsp.edu

The “Do Not Walk Alone” program recently began in Portage County.

This program aims to raise awareness for individuals to have a buddy when walking alone at night, especially if intoxicated.

Daren and Joan Duffey, parents of Eric Duffey, who died in March of 2012 when he walked into the Wisconsin River near downtown Stevens Point, started the new program.

Since the death of Duffey, a former University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point student, there have been roughly 20 young men in the state that have had similar accidents.

This program was created to make everyone aware that being alone makes you more susceptible to danger.

Joan Duffey mentioned that females are taught at a young age the importance of walking with someone​at night. However, many men have been taught to be the ones to walk them home.

These tragedies can be prevented if everyone walks home with their group and has a plan before going out.

Devising plans before going anywhere, whether it is a trip to the bars or just a study group, can only be useful if everyone vows to follow through.

“Watch out for your friends and do not be by yourself,” said Lauri Rockman, Director of the Portage County Coalition for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention. “Think about it, especially in winter. It could be life threatening.”

Taking care of others while you’re trying to have fun may not be the most exciting part of the night, but it can help save lives.

Other opportunities offered to students are the late night City Bus system and the Campus Cab.

With many ad campaigns against drinking in all forms, walking alone has not been touched on much.

“No one really gets it until something happens to them,” Joan said.

Being aware of the dangers can help people from learning the hard way.

“We don’t want to see anymore tragedies when this can be so easily prevented,” Rockman said.

Since partnering with the Duffeys, the coalition has been working hard to get the word out.

Radio ads have been played throughout all of Portage and Dane County, including the UWSP campus station 90FM.

Besides advertisements on the airwaves, posters and billboards are located all around Stevens Point.

While this program was created to make everyone aware of the dangers of walking alone, no one should be blamed for these tragedies.

“We do not blame Eric’s death on his friends or even on him, it can happen to anyone,” Joan said. “Those kids with Eric that night are living in guilt, this feeling should not be guilt. I know Eric would not want them to feel that, that feeling is something I want to stop from happening.” 

UWSP was a home for Eric Duffey and where he had some of the best memories of his life.

“Being at UWSP was all he wanted,” Joan said, “It’s like that quote from Steel Magnolias, ‘I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special’.”

The death of Eric Duffey was one that can be an example for others to help them see the dangers of walking alone in the dark.

“If you don’t think it can happen to you, it can,” Rockman said.

Daren and Joan Duffey are both making efforts to speak at UWSP in the future. They would like to share their experiences and also show students how important it is to walk with friends and set plans for the evening.