USF responds to rapes with caution, not alarm

Though many students were unaware of the second rape that occurred in an on-campus residence hall within three weeks, the university has addressed the issue with precautionary measures but officials said the incident is not something to be alarmed by.

Unlike the first case in Kappa Hall, for which a community notification was sent out, the second incident, which was reported Monday, occurred in Epsilon Hall between two parties who knew each other, Lt. Charlotte Domingo of University Police said, and thus, did not pose a threat to the general public.

Domingo said investigations for both cases are ongoing, and UP has responded to numerous tips from the community and has conducted multiple interviews. Though no arrests have been made yet, UP has increased safety measures near the residence halls by increasing patrol and visibility and making extra checks during evening hours, Domingo said.

But some students said they still dont feel safe knowing both incidents took place in first-year dorms.

April Figoni, a freshman majoring in dance and an Epsilon resident, said she didnt hear about the incident
until shortly before 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, when her mom called her after reading about it in the news.

I cant believe this is happening again, Figoni said. Its nerve-wracking.

Figoni said she is worried for her personal safety when walking alone, and she said she hasnt noticed much difference in terms of safety presence since the first incident was reported.

Morgan Gullage, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences, said she first heard about the incident when a friend told her in class after reading about it in the newspaper.

Thats scary, Gullage said. Its weird because it just happened in Kappa.

Gullage said while Resident Assistants (RAs) across campus addressed the Kappa Hall incident immediately after UP sent out a community notification, the new incident had yet to be addressed in Epsilon as of Tuesday evening.

Ana Hernandez, dean of Housing and Residential Education, said Tuesday in a press conference that Housing has informed the 155 RAs that are employed to have heightened awareness to be available to residents if any have a particular concern or information to share.

Though the news has come as startling to many, Nanci Newton, director of the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, said it is not something to fear.

Whenever these things come to the attention of students or come to the attention of the media, it can be alarming, she said. I would never recommend that students be afraid. We havent seen an increase in sexual violence. What were seeing is an increase in the percentage of victims who are willing to come forward and report the crime. While one case of sexual violence is one too many, the good news in all of this is that all of us working together at USF have created more safety for victims to be able to come forward.

Sexual violence, she said, is often an underreported crime to the police.

Five accounts of sexual assault or battery have been reported to UP this year, one account in 2011 and nine accounts in 2010, Domingo said. Newton said during the 2011-12 academic year, the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention saw 36 victims of sexual battery and assault, and 40 victims during the 2010-11 academic year. Newton said she did not yet have figures available for this year.

USF spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez said in an email to media that USF does not believe the number of incidents is increasing.

But the number of people who report it to police is increasing, she said. That is a positive step we want individuals to feel comfortable in taking the next step to reach out to police and report the crime.

Hernandez said though no video surveillance is present in the halls, Housing has adequate security measures through card access, door locks and guest escort policies. All residents are required to go through an orientation process, she said, that addresses personal safety.

We engage in a very active communication with our residents as to how to keep our community safe, she said.