Sexual assault rates on the rise for SF State
February 15, 2009 10:01 AM
When Bianca Solorzano was talking to her mother on the phone outside her residence at The Towers, she was not expecting a classmate to inappropriately touch her nose piercing or for him to put his hand on her lap.
The latest campus police statistics show there is an increase in reported sexual assaults and Solorzano, a freshmen living in the dorms, is part the demographic that is most vulnerable to these types of assaults.
"I thought he was on a drug so I walked away," The Los Angeles native said. "I know who he is but he is not threatening when he is not on drugs."
The situation is not at all uncommon, as a large number of assaults occur when there is alcohol or drugs involved said Karla Castillo, an prevention education specialist at The SAFE place. The SAFE place specializes in helping students with sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence. The groups that are most vulnerable are freshmen who live in the dorms and international students, she added.
The freshmen class of 2008-09 is the largest in SF State history with about 1,944 of the new students living in the dorms.
According to the latest campus police crime statistics that date from 2004 through 2007, sexual battery on campus and on the residence community have increased from zero reported incidents to seven and four respectively.
The 2008 statistics will not come out until October of this year, campus police said.
Rape has decreased from two reported incidents on campus and the residential community in 2005 to one in 2007 on both. However, rape has gone up on non-campus property from zero reported incidents in 2004 to six in 2007.
Non-campus property is within the boundaries of Eucalyptus, Lake Merced, Font and Junipero Serra the report cites.
The report also sites the acquisition of additional property, including University Park North, by the university in 2005 as a reason for the increase in reported crimes.
Castillo also said she has seen a small increase in sexual assaults overall, although she said it is difficult to measure because of the patterns in which students seek help.
DJ Morales, The director of residential life, said she has not seen any increases in sexual assault in the dorms and questioned the statistics.
"Last year, university police investigated several alleged cases of sexual assault which were reported from students who lived in the residential halls- after intense investigation, most of the claims were found to be unsubstantiated," she said in an email statement.
Castillo believes differently. She said that according to studies there is a large amount of cases that go unreported and there are some students who don't believe they are victims of sexual assault when in fact they are.
Chief Deputy Pat Wasley said that campus police at schools with larger resident populations have to show a "commanding presence" to protect students from assault.
Ryuichi Bayani, an international student who has lived in The Village for two years said he does not feel particularly vulnerable.
"There is more security here than in Japan," he said.
Solorzano said she is now taking more precautions. "I walk without my iPod on now and I carry pepper spray," she said.
Wasley, the deputy, agrees with the precautions Solorzano is taking and adds that students should walk in groups, be aware of their surroundings, look assertive, and to take a self defense class, among other things.
Taking a self defense class is a precaution that Heather Watrous, a freshmen living in the dorms, has already taken. She explains that the atmosphere on campus and in the city are different.
"We are sort of in a bubble here (on campus). When I go into the city it probably makes me a little bit vulnerable coming back because I wont be expecting much here as I would in the city."
The SAFE place is located at the Student Services building room 205, their telephone is 415-338-2819.
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