Campus on alert

By Allie Smyth

In an incident that occurred in broad daylight, a visiting student was abducted from the University of Calgary campus and sexually assaulted.

While walking by the ICT building, the victim was approached by a lone male driver at 2:35 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 9. The driver engaged her in conversation by asking for directions. He then forced her into the vehicle, drove to a vacant campus parking lot and sexually assaulted her. After the assault the offender released her by the Education Tower.

The offender was described as a clean shaven Caucasian male in his late 30s or early 40s, with a medium build and short blonde hair. He displayed a limited knowledge of the Japanese language. The vehicle involved was dark green in colour.

The victim reported the incident to Campus Security who notified the Calgary Police Services. An investigation is underway.

Campus Security has released these details to the general university population so that each individual can be informed and take their own precautions.

"Sexual assault is a crime acted out in a sexual way," said Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz. "Power and control are the motives of a crime of this nature, it is not a crime of passion. All women are potential targets, regardless of dress and lifestyle, and it is important to remember that assaults are neither provoked nor deserved."

An assault is the intentional use of force against any person without that person’s consent. Sexual assault may include kissing, touching and non-consensual intercourse or penetration.

Fritz explained that assault victims have options if attacked.

"Your primary objective is to always get out of the offender’s control," he said. "I would recommend that victims try to remain calm and assess their options. Ask yourself: ‘Is it safe to resist? Is there a weapon involved?’ Continually reassess if it remains safe to resist."

Fritz also pointed out that certain actions may deter would-be attackers.

"In some situations, assertive behavior may prevent the assault," he said. "By presenting a self-assured, confident image you may persuade a potential offender from an intended assault. In other cases, the best protection would be to run, scream and draw attention to yourself from others in the area."

U of C Vice-President Student Affairs Peggy Patterson stressed that managing fear of a potential threat is as important as managing personal safety. She also asked the community to stay calm.

"We have to be more cautious, not necessarily suspicious, but on alert more," she said. "We are vulnerable, but we have not been specifically targeted."

Patterson referred to a similar incident which occurred at Mount Royal City Center Campus. MRC Manager of Security and Public Safety Bob King confirmed that CPS were investigating an assault of a lesser magnitude.

Patterson encouraged community members to maintain an awareness of their own personal safety.

"The university is a community of 35,000 people, and an assault like this is a reminder of our vulnerability and highlights our responsibility for our own personal safety," she said. "Unfortunately we are not in as safe a world as we once were."

Sexual Harassment Advisor Shirley Voyna Wilson agreed. She advised maintaining a reasonable distance when dealing with strangers.

"Just don’t get that close, be alert to your environment and pay attention," she said. "Try as much as you can not to be a target. Anticipate and rehearse your reaction so if a situation does occur, you have a plan."

Voyna Wilson pointed out that there are several security initiatives in place on campus but the onus is on the individual to make use of them.

No matter what precautions are taken, however, Fritz said that in some cases nothing can be done to prevent an assault.

"A victim is not to blame if they are unable to stop an attack," he said.

If assaulted, a victim should call for help and seek medical attention. Call the police, and if on campus, Campus Security. There are 52 help phones located in parking lots and buildings on campus which allow direct access to Campus Security. They can also be contacted at 220-5333, and offer Safewalk escorts 24 hours a day.