I am literally in tears. I am in absolute disbelief that something like this would happen to me in my own home (Yale is my home). I knew New Haven could be dangerous, but I never knew just how dangerous it could be–even in places you would never imagine danger could find you. Let me tell you my story.

Picture this: you’re eating dinner, in your residential college’s dining hall. Perfectly safe, right? Imagine if, instead: wrong. What if I told you I don’t have to imagine?

There I was, minding my own business, when I heard a shuffling noise and turned around. Now, when I turn around in the safety of my own residential college dining hall, I expect to see friends. Nay, family. And empty chairs. But instead, I found myself directly in the sights of a glowering, hulking pre-frosh. I gulped. He sniffed, once. I could tell that he could smell my fear, and I could tell he could tell I could, too. I risked a glance downward. He was brandishing a knife.

As if to demonstrate his raw physical strength, he started cutting a piece of chicken in half. This chicken is you, said the look in his eyes. I knew half of that knife could be in my rib cage before I even had time to react.

“Please, you- you don’t have to do this,” I stammered. The chances of reasoning with a predator like this were slim, but I had to try.

“Oh, uh, I guess, sure.” His tone was colloquial, yet evasive. I was sparring with a pro. And as I like to say, when you spar with a pro, you should be ready to lose. He put the knife down, lifted the chicken with his fork, and just bit off a huge chunk. I peed my pants on the spot.

It was time for a different approach. I put both of my hands behind my head. “Please, just take whatever you want.” His response was chilling.

“So you’re not going to finish that?” He gestured at the muffin on my plate with his fork. I nodded, and a wave of relief washed over me as he took the muffin and spared my life. I had never before had such a terrifying experience, until that day. And I’ll never feel safe on Yale’s campus again.

And yet, as I exited that dining hall, I realized that although that pre-frosh had taken my muffin, my dignity, and the wallet that I left on the table by accident, he had given me something as well. A newfound appreciation for being alive. So in spite of it all, I held my head high. Because I have a life to live. And laundry to do.

—B. Hollander-Bodie