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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Eagle

Female students grabbed on campus

Sexual advances spark safety analysis

Three separate incidents of sexual advances that appear to be related occurred on campus late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, said Public Safety Director Colleen Carson.

In each of the assaults, which consisted of female students being "grabbed in a sexual manner," the suspect grabbed the victim from the back as he walked past them, Carson said.

The assaults happened between 9 and 9:45 p.m., with two occuring in the amphitheater and one in the Asbury parking lot, a crime alert said.

Public Safety is investigating the assaults and issued a crime alert Thursday, the second in a week, to warn the community about the sexual advances. This makes five reports of sexual advances so far this semester. One was inside Anderson Hall while the others were on campus grounds.

On average, there are one to two sexual assaults each year, said Julie Weber, executive director of Housing and Dining Programs.

"There are not things we can do procedurally to make people safer outside," Weber said. "There does not seem to be any need to increase security at the moment."

The first incident took place in the Asbury parking lot. A man approached a female walking alone, made a comment to her, grabbed her and then ran away, Carson said. Carson did not divulge the comment that was made because of the pending investigation.

The second and third incidents took place near the Butler Garden. In two separate incidents, the suspect made a comment to a female who was walking alone before grabbing her as he passed from behind and then running away.

"It's a grab and then run," Carson said.

The suspect has been described as an Asian or white male, 19 to 21 years old with a stocky build, and 5 foot 8" to 5 foot 10" tall. He has "medium" brown hair and was wearing dark baggy clothing and a tight-fitting baseball cap, Carson said.

It's possible that the suspect could be a student, considering his age, Carson said.

Carson said that she is not sure whether the three assaults were related to a fourth incident, which occurred around 2 a.m. Thursday morning. Three female students walking on campus near the Battelle-Tompkins building reported an unknown male yelling at them from the Mary Graydon Center bridge.

While that incident was not as severe as the other three, it did "scare them enough that they ran across the Quad, and they reported it when they got to their residence hall," Carson said.

Carson also said that the first three incidents may be related to a sexual advance in August, when a man exposed himself while a female was walking through the garden between Bender Arena and Hughes Hall.

"We are certainly linking the ones that happened [last night] with the incident that was on the previous crime alert that occurred in the Butler Garden because they are very similar ... and because the descriptions [of the suspect] are somewhat similar," Carson said.

She is not sure if the incidents are related to another sexual advance that occurred in the residence halls on Nov. 12. A middle-aged man entered a women's bathroom in Anderson Hall, and pulled back the shower curtain while a student was showering. The suspect fled and is still at large.

Public Safety will be working with the Metropolitan Police Department to investigate, Carson said.

"We really don't know who is doing this," she said. "This sort of a crime is one of opportunity and is virtually impossible to prevent."

The Student Confederation is calling the assaults an "epidemic problem that is plaguing our campus community" and is planning an open forum to discuss campus safety with The Office of Campus Life, Housing and Dining Programs and the Department of Public Safety. The forum will be held Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. in McDowell Formal Lounge.

Some students have expressed apprehension at the fact the suspect remains at large.

Claire Lohr-Myers, a senior who works at the Eagle's Nest from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., said that "it's really freaky when I'm walking back alone" from her job. "This is the first time in four years that this has been a reoccurring theme," she said.

Students are advised to walk in groups, use the shuttle service and avoid concealed and dark areas. Students should carry and keep their cell phones accessible and be aware of emergency blue lights. Public Safety's non-emergency extension for an escort for students uncomfortable walking on campus is x2527.

Public Safety asks students to report suspicious activity to Public Safety by calling the emergency extension x3636.

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