Sexual assaults rattle campus

April 21, 2010

Although the Metropolitan Police Department has already increased patrols in some areas near the University in light of recent violent crime, an April 10 sexual assault in Copley Hall and an April 16 sexual assault on the 3300 block of Prospect St. NW have done little to assuage students’ fears that crime is on the rise in Georgetown.

Claire McKinley (SFS ’12), who resides in Copley Hall, said that she has been avoiding doing her laundry for a few days, and is more wary of being alone in the stairwells.

“We do lock our doors, take all the necessary precautions, but it’s been a little more edgy lately,” McKinley said.

Brigit McLaughlin (COL ’10), co-Chair of Take Back the Night, a student group formed to combat gendered violence, said that sexual assaults are a multi-dimensional problem that must be prevented through education and cultural changes, not just increased security measures.

Jared Watkins (COL ‘11), who is a co-founder of GU Men Creating Change, a group of male students working to end violence against women, said that while security measures can be improved, they don’t solve the problem in its entirety.

“I’ve heard people talk about security cameras, which might have helped in the Copley case, but short of making Georgetown a police state, there’s really not a sure-proof way to prevent that kind of sexual assault,” Watkins said.

Watkins warned that the phenomenon of “acquaintance sexual assault” should not be overlooked, even if sexual assaults from strangers account for the majority of Public Safety Alerts and receive the most media attention, a point echoed by McKinley.

“It’s not just something that the boogeyman does, it’s people in the Georgetown community,” McKinley said. “The University is really reluctant to address that because it makes us look bad.”

University spokesman Andy Pino would not specify whether the University is adopting any new measures in response to the recent sexual assaults, but said that Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson will discuss in a Friday press conference how the University is enhancing safety and security around campus.

“We are very concerned about these recent incidents,”  Pino wrote in an e-mail. “We take the safety of our community seriously, and DPS is continuing to work closely with the Metropolitan Police Department to coordinate our crime prevention and response program.”

Both MPD and DPS did not respond to requests for comment.

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