October 16, 2012

Cornell Students Stress Vigilance After Sexual Attacks

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After a string of sexual assaults were reported on and near Cornell’s campus, many students say they have a heightened fear of walking alone at night and feel a greater need for being vigilant around campus.

In a series of interviews with The Sun, several students said that the string of reported assaults has shaken the Cornell community — and caused them to change their behavior.

“I think it really has made an impact on everyone,” Ben Chartock ’14 said. “The frequency and seriousness [of the events] hit closer to home than it ever has before.”

Since the reported attacks, Chartock wonders if the police he sees on campus are there because of another attack, he said.

“These questions that wouldn’t have popped into my mind before are more apparent,” he said.

On Sept. 2, two forcible touchings were reported — one in Collegetown and the other in the parking lot near Hughes Dining. Within hours of these incidents, a rape was reported near the suspension bridge north of the Arts Quad. Then, on Sept. 27, an attempted rape was reported near the trolley bridge connecting the engineering quad and Oak Avenue.

For some students, the reports of the sexual attacks have both served as a reminder to be alert when walking around on campus at night and left them feeling less secure about their safety.

“I would say that I am a little more cautious than before,” Angela Moe ’14 said.  “Overall … I feel less safe.”

Melanie Larkins ’14 said she now thinks twice about previously commonplace activities like walking to and from the library at night.

“I definitely think about walking home alone more,” Larkins said. “I’m a little bit more wary about going to the library at night because I don’t want to have to walk back alone.”

While the reported attacks have created anxiety among upperclassmen, it has also alarmed some freshmen — who, amid the campus’ heightened preoccupation with safety, have expressed fears about their security.

Allison Rotteveel ’14, a resident advisor in Mary Donlon Hall, said she has overheard conversations among residents who now feel the need to use the buddy system when walking home from the library at night. Some freshmen, she said, have received pepper spray in the mail from worried parents.

“It’s nerve-wracking for freshmen coming into the atmosphere,” Rotteveel said, adding that, since the attacks, she has tried to help advise students wondering how to safely navigate their way around campus.

In the aftermath of the attacks, some students say they have a heightened sense of personal responsibility for being vigilant when walking around campus, especially at night.

“As individuals, we each have the responsibility to take certain precautions to prevent these kinds of events from occurring,” Ariel Rokito ’15 said.

Reflecting on the attacks, Ben Dreier ’15 said he thinks that there are not always enough police officers around campus at night to encourage students to take safety precautions like using the Blue Light system.

As a result, he said, “sometimes, I think that students’ intentions to walk safely are outweighed by their want to go somewhere immediately.”

Others, like Chartock, said they have been left with a stronger sense of the importance of looking out for their friends’ safety.

“When I’m walking with people, I’ll be a little more insistent on walking a friend of mine home so that there are two people walking together,” Chartock said.

Pamela Leo ’14 agreed that the string of reported attacks has served as a potent reminder of the possibility of becoming the victim of a sexual assault.

“The fact that there is an increase in reporting [of sexual assaults] puts it more in my mind that these things happen a lot,” she said.

Original Author: Rebecca Friedman