York stunned by assaults

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

For students at York University, the threat of sexual assault on campus recently became a frightening reality.

In the early morning on Friday, Sept. 7, two sexual assaults and one attempted assault occurred against female students in Vanier College residence. Both victims were sleeping alone in their rooms with the doors unlocked before the attacks.

The Toronto Police Service is looking for two white males involved in the incidents. One 5’5” to 5’7” with short dark hair. The second is slim, 6’ to 6”1 with short light-coloured hair. It is unclear whether the two males are York students.

Gilary Massa, Vice-President Equity of the York Federation of Students, said violence against women on campus is unacceptable.

“It is a woman’s right to say no, it is a woman’s right to have ownership over her own body, and walk anywhere, and have [her] residence dorm room open... and not be fearful [she] will be assaulted or raped,” Massa said.

Massa noted sexual assault is not an isolated incident in the York community, but rather a pervasive issue throughout university campuses.

“We should be proactive in our approach to this issue and not wait for things to happen,” Massa said.

“Create forums, go to [your] student union and put pressure to ensure that voices of students are heard. Look out for one another and be aware of surroundings.”

Louiza Szacon, events coordinator for V-Day at Western " a fundraising initiative to end violence against women " said Western does not actively advocate women’s safety.

“Western has to stop eroticizing women’s submission... [and] act against rape actively, not passively.”

Elgin Austen, director of Western’s Campus Community Police Service, disagreed. “Western is a very safe campus,” he said.

Austen attributed Western’s safe nature to residence initiatives such as 24-hour residence managers, regular rounds by residence staff, emphasis on security at floor meetings, community watch programs, and the residence liaison officer program.

“Everyone needs to pay some attention to their own safety and security,” Austen said.

At York, students are being reminded to be vigilant about personal safety, Keith Marnoch, York’s associate director of media relations, said " a reminder which also applies at Western.

“Don’t allow tailgaters to come behind you without showing access, lock doors inside your residence, be aware of your surroundings, report suspicious activity, [and] take advantage of security measures in place,” Marnoch said.

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