Sexual Assault Shocks School, Campus Groups Lend Support

An unknown male assailant sexually assaulted a female student on a walkway near Parking Lot 5 in Mesa Court, near University and Campus Drive on Sunday, Sept. 28, at approximately 1:30 a.m..
According to the Community Alert released by the police department later that morning, the suspect approached the female from behind and threatened her with an unknown, sharp object. He was described as approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall, 170 to 180 pounds and wearing dark blue denim jeans and a shirt. The suspect was last seen fleeing on foot, northbound from the parking lot towards University and Campus Drive. As of yet, the assailant has not been caught.
The assault has elicited mixed responses from the UC Irvine campus. On one hand, there is much concern for the safety of UC Irvine students. Stephen Marley, a third-year women’s studies major and program coordinator for Challenging All Men to Prevent Sexism (CHAMPS), expressed concern.
“This is a horrible tragedy, especially since it happened so early in the year and many of the new students just got here … I know that sexual assault has a huge impact on the lives of the survivors and I know it may take time for her to recover,” Marley said.
Ultimately, students are concerned with their ability to keep this from happening to themselves.
“This is scary,” said Kirsten Alonso, a second-year Spanish and political science major. “I think that even though UCI is a relatively safe place, we should remember that one should still be careful, especially at night.”
There has been a campus-wide surge of students requesting information regarding risk reduction and the safeness of the UCI campus.
However, Robert Buelow, UCI’s violence prevention coordinator, believes that we should focus our energies on preventing the perpetrators of sexual assault instead of looking at risk reduction strategies and the resources a survivor can use.
“We have many resources here at UCI as well as a great, supportive network of people who are there to help. However, most of the groups on our campus, including Campus Assault Resources Education [CARE], focus their efforts on ending violence by dealing with the perpetrators. This is just a reminder that as men, we need to step up and speak out about violence against women. The focus should be on the rapist, not the survivor because ultimately, that is who is at fault.”
CARE not only presents multiple workshops throughout the year on the causes of sexual assault, it currently sponsors two peer education groups: Right to Know and the aforementioned CHAMPS.
By tabling, holding workshops and creating visibility regarding the problem of sexual assault and violence against women, these groups work to promote knowledge on campus and in the community regarding sexual assault, rape, consent, and multiple other topics.
The fear and anxiety on campus should be alleviated by the extent of resources available for students, including the UCI Police Department’s free safety escort service available from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., Rape Aggression Defense, a basic self-defense course for female students, and walk-in counseling at the UCI Counseling Center.
There will be a prevention forum on Wednesday, Oct. 8 at noon, facilitated by Buelow in the Student Center in Newport Beach. The forum will present information about sexual assault and violence as well as what can be done to help.