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What is Environmental Mapping?

John reports to his daily job at the workshop where he helps assemble college campus orientation packets. For the past month, John has been irritable at work.  John is a quiet man who doesn’t complain much and also does not communicate verbally, very often.  His supervisor has noticed a slight change in his behavior.  Several times over the month, John has been asked to go to the storage room to retrieve more supplies.  In the past, he has done this without incident but lately, he hesitates, gets mad and is disruptive, upsetting other workers. His supervisor reprimands him and never asks what is upsetting him.

The storage room, with just one entrance and no windows, is run by Tony and he has befriended John by paying attention to him, asking him how his family is doing, sharing sweets with him and other nice gestures.  John became very used to this attention and looked forward to picking up additional supplies. In the past month, when John has gone to the storage room, Tony’s behavior became more personal and he would be very close to John while talking and occasionally hug John, which made John uncomfortable.  Then one day Tony sexually assaulted John and told him not to tell anyone because they would both get in trouble.

Environmental mapping is a strategy that highlights the “hot” spots and “cool” spots in a building and the surrounding community.  Organizations use this strategy as one step in the prevention of sexual violence.  Staff and clients of an organization are given a floor plan of the facility and they literally walk around the entire building and mark down on the floor plan, the places where they feel safe and comfortable, “cool” spots, and the places where they feel unsafe or uncomfortable, “hot spots.” The exercise can be done in the community by giving clients a street map of the community to see if there are some “hot spots” as they arrive for work and leave at the end of the day for home.

All of the forms are tallied to find out how many areas are “hot” or “cool.” Once the data is compiled, the differences between the two are considered.  Is there more surveillance in “cool” areas?  What reasons do the respondents give for labeling an area “hot?”  The areas that are marked “hot” are the areas where further safety measures are needed.  Is more light needed, does a door need to have a window, are there corners where there is no exit, etc.?

In John’s case, the supply room was a “hot spot.”  There was only one door and no windows. A person can easily be taken advantage of.  A solution to this situation could be to have a door with a window, have a policy that says you must always be in sight of the door, always have two people working in the supply room and/or have two people retrieve supplies.  Sometimes, strategies like these are put into place, after an incident has occurred.  Primary prevention puts strategies in place before the violence happens.

For detailed information on environmental mapping, please contact Chris Morin at or Merrill Pontes at