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Opinion: Campus is Shaken After Assault Alert

Katelyn Van Mater/Villanovan Photography
Some students feel wary after the sexual assault alert earlier this month.

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault.

Not even 48 hours after learning about the public alert system, students saw it in action.

Villanovans received the school-wide blast email on Sept. 1, barely one day after the conclusion of Freshman Orientation, with the subject line “Safety Alert — Sexual Assault Report.”

I live on South Campus, the social hub of the freshman class, and there are a lot of things that I like about living there. 

I love being able to socialize with my classmates here, and I love having Spit so close to my dorm. However, the isolation that South Campus has from the rest of the school reflects on some of the after-hours activities.

South Campus is where the event that triggered the alert took place, and since then, I have been walking with extreme caution. Other students noted their new safety measures.

“I feel pretty safe on campus,” freshman Maria Norman said. “But I always make sure to walk with people at night.”

It’s incredibly easy to try to distance yourself from the brutal reality that people nearby — even people you know — are capable of such atrocious actions. Truthfully, however, I have found it incredibly difficult to feel completely safe on South Campus since receiving that email. 

Until and unless the perpetrator is exposed, there’s really no way of knowing who to trust. Students like freshman Kate Griffin, while overall feeling safe, also have suggestions surrounding campus safety.

“I feel okay about [campus safety],” Griffin said. “But I’d rather they put up more blue light boxes around campus. I don’t know of any on South except [near] the pathway going toward [Main] campus.”

As for the email alert, Griffin is thankful that the University has a system to deal with events like this.

“I like the Public Safety alert [system], but in order to have those alerts, people need to be able to be safe to report the crime,” Griffin said. 

It heartens me to know that the University fields a whole office that is dedicated to responding to these acts. 

The Title IX Office does a lot of good work with survivors, providing them with resources and launching investigations per the victim’s request — more than what some universities can offer.

However, the office’s existence doesn’t seem to do much to deter the offenders at all, because not even 48 hours before the email was sent, all of the freshman were subject to watch tapes on sexual assault and prevention.

In the weeks since receiving the Public Safety alert, I have noticed that most people on campus have been very cautious with who they bring to their dorms, instead of openly inviting random people to their rooms.

I have not invited any men in my room, even if I’ve known someone for a fair amount of time. It is not because I don’t like or trust them. It’s just what I feel comfortable with given the circumstances. I do not have a problem with my roommate bringing guys around if she wants, but for me, keeping the male presence in my dorm to a minimum feels best for the time being.

Rape culture on college campuses has only gotten worse in recent years. According to the Rape Assault & Incest National Network (RAINN), 13% of all college students today experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.

Female college students between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the average woman. RAINN also states that more than 50% of these assaults occur in the months of Aug., Sept., Oct. and Nov.

In other words, we are in peak season for sexual assault, which sounds horrific, but the numbers leave little room for fault.

Even though that email was sent almost a month ago, I find myself thinking about it every day while I come home from classes as the sun sets, reminding myself to make it to my room before dark.

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    Charlie InsleySep 27, 2023 at 4:18 pm

    Doesn’t help that there have been three more reported sexual assaults on campus since then