The students at the University of British Columbia are taking personal safety more seriously. Reports of three sexual assaults this month were released on Saturday. Students were notified of the misconduct during an emergency residence meeting and were given information regarding a man in a hoodie dragging a 17 year old female into the woods. As she tried to fight back, the alleged perpetrator punched her in the face and continued to assault her sexually. The woman eventually did escape from the man and ran for help, causing the man to flee.
The recent violent activity on campus has gained national coverage and UBC is taking the events very seriously. The attacks are now under full investigation by the RCMP and police presence on campus has increased greatly. On-campus security has played an important role well and have provided whistles throughout the trails and walkways of the campus.
Posters, emails and information sessions have been distributed encouraging women to be conscious of their safety and avoid walking alone at night.
The Safe Walk program, a program that escorts students walking alone at night back to their residence, has increased in length by two hours and is now in operation until 4:00 a.m. The Vancouver Police department has been working both openly and covertly on campus in attempts to find who is responsible for these crimes.
While the descriptions of the man have been somewhat inconsistent, police have no question that they are all related. The choice of victim, method, place and time remain similar for all of the attacks and police continue to seek more information that will lead them to an arrest.
So far, they are looking for a Caucasian man in his late twenties or early thirties. He is described as having a thin build and roughly 6’2”. He had short cropped hair and an American accent. The violence of the third incident was much greater than the first two and many worry how the attacks could escalate if a fourth were to happen.
Many females on campus have reported feeling fearful to walk at night and unsafe in their own neighbourhoods. Many have taken alternative routes home and are leaving libraries much earlier than usual. Some have described the atmosphere on campus as being “tense.”
While the students are not being discouraged from participating in their daily routines, they are reminded to be conscious of their surroundings and proactive in regards to their safety.
Until now, students at UBC (and many other universities), did not seem to understand the seriousness of sexual assault. The females involved in these attacks have suffered severe traumatic stress as a result and only one has spoken out about her experience – anonymously.
Back in September, many of the frosh at UBC took part in chants that promoted underage and nonconsensual sex that made national headlines. The university took severe disciplinary measures in order to ban the use of such chants on campus and reiterate the importance of that decision after these attacks.
The school will continue to take appropriate measures on campus to ensure that students are sensitized and educated about sexual assault and its many implications.