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Campus assault rattles UWRF

October 17, 2013

A female community member was assaulted by a group of five to seven white males at approximately 11:45 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 12, on Cascade Avenue by the Kleinpell Fine Arts building, according to an email sent to students from Thomas Pedersen, assistant director in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

The victim was grabbed by two of the men while a third exposed himself to her. The victim was able to escape and flee toward Main Street after kicking at the assailants, according to the email.

If anyone has any information concerning this incident they should contact the River Falls Police Department (RFPD), as it is running the investigation.

University Police Officer David Kuether said that there are many more instances of sexual assault on campus than are actually reported.

“How frequently that stuff happens in this environment, with this age group who are constantly interacting with each other, it is not an unusual occurrence. Under sexual assaults, there were less than five a year that I came across in the last three or four years,” Kuether said. “But you have to remember that’s what gets reported to us. How often it happens at parties and in the dorms, I don’t know. Much more frequently than we ever know about.”

From 2010 to 2012 there were two reported cases of forced sexual assault on the UW-River Falls campus and two that were reported off campus, according to the UWRF Annual Campus Crime Report. These are only cases that were reported to the University Police, not to RFPD.

If students find themselves in a dangerous situation there are multiple steps they can take. Student Health and Counseling Services offers many different services to help students be prepared if they find themselves in a situation like this.

“We offer a variety of different services from prevention efforts aimed at responsible alcohol use, bystander intervention (learning what to do when you witness someone being harmed), self protection strategies to providing individual, and group counseling and support to those who have been impacted by assault or abuse,” Intake Counselor Jennifer Elsesser said.

Elsesser added that students can go to the Student Health and Counseling Services page on the UWRF website to see additional services and information.

While knowing what to do in these situations is important, Kuether said that the first and most important thing any student should do is call 911.

“When you call 911 it goes to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. When they get the call they radio us, now you turn your phone call into a radio call where everyone hears it. Everyone in law enforcement monitors the radio; in one call from Pierce County they get scores of people that hear that call. You call me and you get one person on the phone, the city doesn’t hear the problem and the county doesn’t hear the problem,” Kuether said. “We really prefer you call 911.”

Kuether added that calling 911 allows for faster response time as there may be, for example, an officer from RFPD listening to the radio who is closer to the emergency than a University officer, allowing that officer to respond quicker.

Kuether also said that there are many other safety precautions that students can take when walking from place to place on or around campus.

“Protecting yourself is similar for everybody. Using the well lit walking paths, as opposed to no lights, walking with a friend and calling ahead of time letting your roommate know you’re on your way so if you don’t show up then someone knows where you are and what you’re doing,” Kuether said.

Kuether added that while living in a smaller Midwest city, students and community members may not think that incidents like this will happen to them. He also noted that an incident could happen at any time of day, not just at night.

“You get into your routine. Let’s say you have to get to the radio station at six in the morning. You know what you have to do to go from point A to point B and you just do it. You don’t think about if on your way you see three guys you’ve never seen before and all of a sudden they’re not moving off the sidewalk and they’re looking to take your backpack,” Kuether said. “We don’t even think of that stuff. We just think that we’re late and we gotta run. So we just run off and take for granted that we aren’t going to run into problems.”

Being prepared and taking safety precautions can help prevent incidents from happening to both students and community members.

“Some people are prepared for that stuff, but they aren’t the ones who we end up talking to. Usually the people who have given it some thought avoid some of those things,” said Kuether.