Students, Officials Voice Concerns As Number of Sexual Assaults Rises

Photo: Students wore skirts in protest of an ongoing string of sexual assaults during a rally held on Sproul Plaza yesterday.
Allyse Bacharach/Photo
Students wore skirts in protest of an ongoing string of sexual assaults during a rally held on Sproul Plaza yesterday.

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Skirt Rally

UC Berkeley students wear skirts and march in response to the string of sexual assaults on young women that have been occurring near campus since September 2008.



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With the number of sexual assault incidents south of the UC Berkeley campus reaching 20 this week, the campus community has become increasingly concerned about its safety and image.

Thirty female students clad in skirts demonstrated on Upper Sproul Plaza yesterday, protesting a predator who has been attempting to penetrate women manually late at night in the South Berkeley area.

One victim of the predator's sexual assaults said women have the right to wear what they want and still feel safe.

"Mainly I hope this man gets caught," she said. "I hope this doesn't happen anymore."

Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard said he is not sure how these crimes will affect the entering class of 2013.

"I am greatly concerned that there may be a perception that UCPD is not doing enough to protect the safety and well-being of our campus and its members," said Poullard, who stressed that civilians must make the effort to ensure collective safety.

Roseanne Fong, director of CalSO, UC Berkeley's summer orientation program for incoming students, said she expects that these assaults will be an important issue for the counselors to address at upcoming events.

"If the individual isn't caught and arrested soon, it'll definitely be a concern," Fong said. "Whenever something like this comes up, we prepare our staff to address parents who have safety as a primary concern and are deciding whether they want to send their students to the Berkeley campus."

At the University of Southern California, another large urban campus, Public Safety Captain David Carlisle said he had not seen a similar series of assaults, but had some ideas about how his force would handle the situation.

"I'd start thinking about surveillance cameras, extra personnel," Carlisle said. "(LAPD) would ask us to assist with covert operations to lure this predator out and make the arrest."

Since the Feb. 23 release of the Berkeley Police Department's community crime alert-which stated there have been 12 victims of sexual assault allegedly linked to the same predator-five additional victims have come forward, according to Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. Sexual battery crimes tend to be under-reported, she said.

Last weekend, two additional women were assaulted in separate incidents, bringing the total to 19 victims. One of the women was assaulted twice.

"(The victims) didn't necessarily know what had happened really constituted a crime," said Berkeley police Officer Andrew Frankel. "Some were quick to chalk it up to a prank. As the story grew and more people heard about it, they knew it wasn't a prank."

During the last two weeks, Berkeley police have increased patrols in South Berkeley and have focused on publicizing preventative measures on personal safety, specifically in residence halls, sororities and fraternities in the area, according to Frankel.

Frankel emphasized the importance of notifying police immediately to maximize the chance of catching the suspect.

"If somebody waits an hour or a day, we no longer have that opportunity," he said.

Taylor White, a UC Berkeley freshman, said she has seen how the attacks have affected people around her.

"I have friends whose parents are calling and asking them if they're okay," she said. "It's definitely had an impact on our image in a negative way."

Tags: RALLY, ASSAULTS, PREDATOR


Contact Alex Gong and Leah Greenbaum at [email protected]



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