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University of Iowa News Release

 

Sept. 20, 2007

Mason issues statement on sexual assaults near campus

University of Iowa President Sally Mason issued the following statement to the campus community today, Thursday, Sept. 20:

Dear Members of the University of Iowa Community:

Our community has been subject to numerous assaults on women in the near-campus area. These assaults are distressing and obviously unacceptable. The safety of our students and our community is paramount. The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety is cooperating with our other local law enforcement agencies--including the police departments of Iowa City and Coralville, as well as the Johnson County Sheriff's Office--on several methods of addressing the problem.

We are taking a proactive approach to ending these attacks. Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hagardine has now made public in the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Iowa City Press-Citizen what the force has been doing over the past months, including working overtime on bike and foot patrols with help from other local law enforcement agencies, assignment of Special Crimes Action Team officers to the investigation, and decoy operations. Sketches of the assailant or assailants have been distributed regularly and widely in the media and are now being posted more generally on campus and in the community.

The University is also working hard to increase our educational efforts in the area of personal safety. A week ago, a UI Student Government-sponsored Women's Safety Forum was held, attended by hundreds of people. Presentations and discussions were conducted by the UI Department of Public Safety, the Women's Resource Action Center, Rape Victim Advocacy Program, Domestic Violence Intervention Program, and UI Student Health. The UI Department of Public Safety offers several safety courses, including a "Rape Aggression Defense Training (R.A.D.)" program. They are giving regular and numerous safety and defense programs in our residence halls. And while no one is to be blamed for being the victim of assault, we are also stepping up our efforts to communicate to students the necessity of practicing safety precautions.

Most of the assaults are occurring against lone women, the vast majority late at night, so we are encouraging students to avoid such a situation whenever possible, to remain alert to their surroundings, to avoid distractions such as cell phones and personal stereos when walking alone, and to stay as much as possible on well-lit major roadways, pathways, and open spaces.

In addition to these programs, I am very pleased that University of Iowa student leaders have approached the Iowa City City Council with a petition containing 5,000 signatures asking for a task force that would look into establishing a neighborhood watch and patrol, increasing the resources of the Iowa City Police Department, increasing educational campaigns, and evaluating lighting on city streets. Our City Council has received the petition positively and will continue discussion in the immediate future. Our students should be commended for their leadership on this very serious situation.

The Iowa City Police Department posts regular updates to the assault situation on their website at http://www.icgov.org/police/headlines.asp?ID=58. The site also contains safety recommendations and contact information. I would recommend this website as an excellent resource to keep yourself apprised of important information, as well as our local news outlets. Also, the UI Department of Public Safety website contains excellent information on crime prevention and the department's crime prevention programs at http://www.uiowa.edu/~pubsfty/#.

We are working to make sure that a combination of police work, education, and community action brings this series of assaults to an end as soon as possible, and that we all do what we can to prevent opportunities for assaults to happen in the first place. I urge students to forward this e-mail to their parents or guardians. Students, families, University employees, and community members deserve and expect a safe environment, and we must all work together to create one.

Sally Mason

President

STORY SOURCE: University Relations, 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1000

MEDIA CONTACT: Linda Kettner, University Relations, linda-kettner@uiowa.edu, 319-384-0030