UBC students question sexual assault messaging
Unidentified man has assaulted three women in past month
Students at the University of British Columbia are questioning the way in which the university is handling the fallout from a string of sexual assaults that have taken place on campus.
In the last few weeks, an unidentified man — described as Caucasian, between 20 and 30 years old, six feet two inches tall, with a thin build and an American accent — has attacked three female students on campus.
The attacks are now under investigation by the RCMP's Major Crime Unit after the third incident on Saturday night, in which the same man accosted a 17-year-old girl and tried to drag her into a wooded area.
Since the attacks, safety whistles and multiple warnings urging students not to walk alone have been issued to female students on campus, and the Safewalk service escorting students across campus has been ramped up.
But first-year student Emily Truong said the attacks have been scary and frustrating for female students.
"We as females, we have to change our behaviours. Whereas males, they are not told to carry whistles or walk in pairs. But we are," said Truong.
Truong believes some students don't take the issue of sexual assault seriously. She points to the controversy earlier this year in which students were led in a chant about underage rape.
"They're chanting as if it's not a big deal, and seeing the fear from female students right now — at such a well-known university — I think it's embarrassing on UBC's part," she said.
A fourth sexual assault may have taken place over the weekend, according to the Ubyssey student newspaper, although no one has come forward yet to the RCMP.
Angela Marie MacGougall of Battered Women's Support Services said many women never come forward after being attacked.
"[They're] questioning their behaviour. What were they wearing? What they were doing … had they been drinking? And they come under trial themselves and it can be very traumatizing," said MacGougall.
UBC president Stephen Toope said the university is trying to keep people safe.
"I am outraged and very concerned. I want to make sure the university does everything possible," he said.
Meanwhile, RCMP continue to investigate the attacks, trying to put together a better description of the suspect and searching for campus video.
Sgt. Peter Thiessen with the Major Crime Unit said working on cases like these are difficult.
"We have three incidents where there are women that have been victimized," he said. "They have been violated in a way that's traumatic, and we have to determine how accurate their descriptions are."
Tips on any of the incidents are being received through the University RCMP at (604) 224-1322 or through Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.