It’s time we strengthen our approach to preventing sexual assault

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Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, there have been several sexual assault incidents on or near the UC Riverside campus. As a result, the need for safety and preventative measures against sexual assault is ever more pertinent. Furthermore, the question of whether UCR and UCPD are doing enough to ensure safety for all students has become more prevalent. This editorial board believes that the UCR campus community needs to do more to spread awareness about sexual assault and to help prevent it. We need to make our campus and community safer for all its members.

It seems that, at UCR, the conversation about sexual assault only occurs after an incident happens. Instead, more should be done to prevent these cases from occurring in the first place. A few potential solutions include raising more awareness about how common sexual assaults are. This can be done by sharing statistics with students about how often these incidents occur, emphasizing that it is a more common threat than is generally believed and holding workshops for incoming freshmen that openly address this issue.

Additional useful preventative measures can be implemented via the UCPD. Admittedly, the UCPD can only do so much to stop sexual assault, but as a source of security that students rely on, they can certainly do more to deter these crimes. For instance, students should never walk alone, but sometimes this is not an option and, while UCR’s Women’s Resource Center does provide a campus escort service, the service is only available up until 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. The UCPD can expand security efforts by offering its own escort services during the days and hours in which the campus services are not operating. In general, the UCPD patrolling actively and visibly at night could deter perpetrators from targeting students. While carrying tools of protection such as pepper spray, flashlights and whistles is beneficial for students, ultimately, active patrolling could serve to be immensely more effective.

Still, students should be aware of the measures they can take to ensure their own safety and that of others. Walking home in groups of three or more is a good way to deter potential crime. If you have to be alone, for whatever reason, tell your friends where you are, where you are going and what time you expect to be home, as a means of bolstering your own protection. And, if you are a friend of someone heading home alone, following up with a call, or offering to let them stay at your place (if possible), could be of great importance to their safety.

Perhaps, even offering them a ride could prevent an incident from occurring. On May 14, 2017, a woman reported to the UCPD that she had been sexually assaulted by a driver of a ride-sharing service near the UCR Plaza Apartments. This incident demonstrates the risks associated with using online transportation services, as they have potentially dangerous consequences. When using one of these services, you must keep in mind that your life is in the driver’s hands, and that you are putting a lot of trust in them to safely take you where you want to go.

When using a ride-sharing service, make sure you are taking as many precautionary measures as you can. It is absolutely necessary that you ride with a friend. Be skeptical of your driver, and remain alert and attentive to the route that they are taking. Also, make sure that, when your requested car arrives, its license plate matches the one that’s provided to you on the app you used to request the service. UCR does provide free RTA bus transportation to UCR students via the use of your R’Card, which makes riding the bus another option, but this could be unfeasible if you are located far from campus and not near a bus stop.

Furthermore, it’s not only easy-to-use mobile apps such as ride-sharing services that carry danger. On May 26, the UCPD informed students through a campus-wide email that, on May 25, a woman was sexually assaulted by a person she met through a social media app. The UCPD reported that “the survivor met the suspect via a social media app and arranged, via that app, to meet in person at an on-campus location.” Then, “the suspect and survivor drove to another on-campus location where, after a short time, the suspect sexually assaulted the survivor.”

Incidents such as these reinforce the dangers of meeting people online. Not only that, but they raise a more pressing question of why they are recurring on a campus which has the resources to prevent such incidents in the first place. Sure, it is important and necessary to have conversations about sexual assault after an incident occurs, however, such conversations should ideally lead to the implementation of more preventative measures and practices from both UCPD and UCR administration going forward. An email alert does little beyond catching people’s attention for a few days, instilling fear and discomfort rather than leading to anything constructive.

It has long been time for us to reevaluate and strengthen our approach to preventing sexual assault on and near campus — the need for this has only been exacerbated by the slew of recent incidents. The resources are available and the issue is glaring, it’s on UCR and UCPD to take action.

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