ECPD receives fourth sexual assault report in 3 years

by Beacon Staff • October 12, 2005

Recent events have caused Emerson students to become increasingly aware of the prevalence of crime around campus. The Boston Police Department has cracked down on area drug use and prostitution, two women were raped after taking cabs from Faneuil Hall and two men were killed in a shooting behind the Little Building.

The rash of violence, however, is not limited to the streets of Boston. On Sept. 20, the Emerson College Police Department (ECPD) received report of a sexual assault on campus. It was the fourth report of a sexual assault involving an Emerson student that the ECPD has received in three years.

In accordance with ECPD procedure, the victim's name and the exact location of the crime have been withheld.

Although at least one sexual assault has been reported to the ECPD every year since 2002, some Emerson freshmen are not concerned.

Freshmen Little Building roommates Alexis Schuette, a theatre studies major, and Erica Templeman, a communication studies major, said they feel safe in Emerson's dorms.

"Everybody on our floor is really nice," Templeman said. "I don't feel threatened by anyone on our floor. In fact, they are [the] type of people I'd go to if I had any problems."

Jane Powers, director of the Center for Health and Wellness, said in an e-mail interview that it is important for students to be aware that sexual assault is far from uncommon on college campuses.

Powers said one in four college women are assaulted during their college years and that freshmen college women run the greatest risk in the first two weeks of their college experience. Powers said 60 to 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

"It has taken years and we still have a long road ahead to change perceptions of who is most likely to be sexually assaulted and the best ways of preventing it without appearing to 'blame the victim,'" Powers said. "The perpetrator of the assault bears full responsibility for his/her actions."

One sexual assault was reported to the ECPD in 2002, two were reported in 2003 and one in 2004.

The statistics are similar at nearby Suffolk University, which has had one sexual assault reported every year since 2002, according to the Suffolk University Police Department's records.

Many college organizations are holding events to increase awareness about sexual assault.

The Emerson organization Healthy Options Peer Educators (HOPE) is holding a self-defense workshop on Nov. 18.

On Oct. 29 at noon, there will be a Men's Engagement conference at Northeastern University, which will focus on involving male college students in sexual assault awareness.

The Center for Health and Wellness offers counseling and advice for students and also hands out wallet-sized cards with tips on how to react to or prevent a sexual assault. The first tip listed for preventing a sexual assault is using the "buddy system," which is the term used for never traveling alone.

As roommates, Templeman and Schuette said they follow the buddy system, or at least keep tabs on where the other one is.

"It's almost to be expected in this day and age [since] there are so many creeps out there," Templeton said. "You have to watch your back and make sure you have other people watching yours. It's really just about having a support network with you at all times."

Schuette said she thinks students can help prevent sexual assault by remaining sober.

"I could definitely see [sexual assault] happening, though, with the amount of students that go out and get influenced by various substances, how easy it is to take advantage of someone in that state," Schuette said.

Director of Public Safety William McCabe also encouraged students to be more vigilant about their personal safety. McCabe emphasized that such vigilance could be compromised when a student becomes intoxicated.

"The best way to protect yourself from any crime is to be constantly aware of your surroundings," he said. "In order to be aware, you need to have excellent control of your senses."

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