Sexual assault case under investigation
Crimes took place behind a house near Hunting Lodge Road and Birch Road
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 00:10
State police are investigating reports of two sexual assaults that took place near the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus on Friday, Oct. 11, according to police officials.
The crimes allegedly occurred in a forested area behind a house located near Hunting Lodge Road and Birch Road, in Mansfield. They did not take place at Carriage House Apartments or Celeron Square Apartments, contrary to rumors circulating on campus, according to UConn Police Deputy Chief Hans Rhynhart.
At 12:03 a.m., the state police received a 911 call and responded to the site of the crime, which consisted of “a large party with numerous intoxicated college students running into the woods and backyard from the scene,” according to an Oct. 15 state police press release.
The UConn police acted as a liaison with the state police as law enforcement officials responded to the scene, according to Rhynhart.
The state police’s press release indicated that two black males were responsible for the alleged crimes, one of which was a completed sexual assault and the other was an attempted sexual assault.
Rhynhart said incidents like these are not unique to UConn and frequently occur at other college campuses around the country.
“What we see here now is indicative of what we saw 10 years ago,” Rhynhart said, indicating that there has not been an uptick in sexual assaults on campus. “It’s very similar here as it is at (other major academic institutions).”
Not all things have remained as static as the number of sexual assaults at UConn and other academic institutions, however. UConn Police Chief Barbara O’Connor said in her 30 years of service on college campuses, she has seen sexual assault awareness become more commonplace.
“In the course of my career, I’ve seen changes and trends in crime,” O’Connor said. “There’s a trend to acknowledge that (sexual assault) is a problem, to acknowledge that we need to treat it differently.”
Part of UConn’s mission to address crime on campus involves ensuring sexual assault education is prevalent throughout a student’s time on campus, according to Elizabeth Conklin, UConn’s Title IX coordinator.
“We must address what’s called ‘primary prevention,’ and that’s the goal of programs like Men Can Stop Rape, like discussions of consent in orientation and with freshmen.” Conklin said. “Our ultimate goal is to eradicate sexual assault on our campus.”
Conklin, who is a member of UConn President Susan Herbst’s Task Force on Civility and Campus Culture, said the task force plans on presenting a thorough plan in December that would make primary prevention education more prominent in the lives of upperclassmen, something she believes is currently lacking.
One of the major concerns raised by both O’Connor and Conklin was the nature of most sexual assaults on campus. While the common belief is to associate such actions with “stranger-grabbing,” Conklin said what is more commonly seen is “acquaintance assaults,” where someone the victim is familiar with commits the crime.
O’Connor also highlighted statistics showing only a marginal number of sexual assaults are reported, saying that students avoid reporting such assaults for various reasons, including fear of revealing their sexual activity.
A study from the Justice Department published in 2000 indicates that only 5 percent of completed or attempted rapes on college campuses are reported.
The university’s annual security and fire safety report showed only 13 reported cases of sexual assault on or near the Storrs campus in 2012, but the number of actual sexual assaults might be far higher, according to O’Connor.
Beyond the addressing the issues of rape and other forms of sexual assault, the university has had to address appropriate communication on such issues at the Storrs campus over the past two years.
The university’s student-run television station, UCTV, aired a sketch in January 2012 in which a female student ran to one of the university’s blue light emergency phones while being chased by a sexual assailant. The emergency responder on the other end of the call proceeded to insult her, calling her several profane names before the assailant reached the female student and choked her.
In April, UConn senior Carolyn Luby received rape threats after sending an open letter to the university saying the new husky logo would promote violence. The letter never received a response from Herbst or any other university officials, despite the incident receiving coverage from statewide and national publications.
This month, rapper Timeflies’ performance at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts included a reference to the infamous “rape trail” on campus, which was met with cheers from the audience of UConn students.