On the night of April 5, members of the Cornell Caribbean Students Association Dance Ensemble were surprised by a college-age man masturbating outside the window of a dance studio in Helen Newman Hall as he watched them practice. The incident was reported to the Cornell Police, but two weeks later the unidentified man was back, again spotted masturbating outside the window.
“The first time we were scared, the second time we were just pissed off,” said Anna-Lisa Trotman ’04, the president of the group.
The man has not yet been identified and the investigation is continuing, said Simeon Moss, deputy director of Cornell News Service. Moss urged anyone with information about the investigation to call the Cornell Police.
Both Trotman and Kenesha Drathwaite ’04 blamed the police for allowing the second incident to occur.
“I’m more upset about the lack of police protection the second time than about what happened,” said Drathwaite, the treasurer of the eleven-member dance group.
“[The police] were supposed to protect us and they didn’t do their job,” she added.
According to Trotman, the police told her that they were understaffed on the night of the second incident.
“We just feel like the police have a responsibility to protect us,” Trotman said.
“The fact that they were understaffed isn’t an excuse,” she added. Neither of the officers involved in the investigation could be reached for comment.
The first incident occurred around 11:00 p.m., while the group was in the midst of practice.
“One of the members noticed that somebody was outside the window,” and when they looked outside, they saw a man masturbating, Trotman said.
“We didn’t see his face or anything, just his hand and his penis,” said Trotman. It was dark outside, and the man had on a hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, she said.
“We just freaked out, we didn’t know what to do at that point … we didn’t know how long he’d been there,” Trotman recalled.
While Trotman ran to the front desk to report the incident, some of the other girls went to the adjacent basketball courts to find friends who could escort them to their cars.
After the first incident was reported, Cornell Police promised to have officers on patrol around Helen Newman on Monday nights while the girls practiced, Trotman said. The week after the first incident occurred, everything went as planned and a police officer did come to patrol the building while the group practiced, she added.
“[That] Monday [April 12] there was a police woman there … she came in and introduced herself and asked us how long we would be practicing. We felt safe [and we were glad that] attention was being called to the incident,” Trotman recalled.
The following week, however, there was no officer present, and the man returned, Trotman said.
That night [April 19], the group was practicing as usual, and the blinds were mostly closed except for a small opening because it was a warm night, Trotman said.
At around 11:00 p.m., the man reappeared.
“I heard a tap on the window, and I turned around, thinking ‘oh no, not again,'” Trotman said. When she turned around, she saw the man masturbating right in front of the window, she said.
“He was so close to the window,” she recalled.
“I think he obviously has a problem, and I think he wanted us to see what he was doing,” she added.
Trotman screamed at the man through the window but he did not move, so several of the women ran outside and began yelling at him, while Trotman ran to the front desk to report the incident.
“I was yelling, ‘what are you doing,'” said Tammy Freeman ’07, one of the women who ran outside.
“At first he kept masturbating, but then he stopped,” said Drathwaite, who also went outside.
“He just kept saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again,” she added.
Some of the women wanted to charge the man as he was backing away from them, but since she didn’t know if the man might be dangerous, Drathwaite cautioned them not to attack.
“My concern was for the girls, and trying to keep them safe,” she said.
Drathwaite said that the man had on jeans, a dark colored hooded sweatshirt and a book bag, adding that he had brown hair and that his face lacked any easily recognizable features.
Trotman called the police from the front desk at Helen Newman and two cars were sent. Members of the group who had gotten a look at the man gave the police a description.
“[The police] got a composite drawing from a couple of the witnesses and they’re using that in their investigation,” Moss said.
Shortly after the police arrived at the scene, they pulled aside a man who fit the description which Drathwaite and the other women had given them, “but after interviewing him, they determined that he was not the man they were looking for,” Moss said.
As a result of the incidents, the dance group has left Helen Newman and found other locations in which to practice.
“It’s just a matter of not feeling safe, not feeling comfortable,” Trotman said.
Trotman also said that she was tired of hearing jokes from people who heard the story.
“People laugh about it, but it’s not funny anymore,” she said.
Archived article by Elijah Reichlin-Melnick
Sun Staff Writer