IOWA CITY — Less than a week into the new school year, University of Iowa police have issued two campus warnings about reported sexual assaults, along with an alert about a shooting on the nearby Pedestrian Mall.
Iowa City police are handling the Ped Mall shooting, which occurred near the walkway between the Sheraton Hotel and Martini’s Bar about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, leaving three people injured. Iowa City has arrested two men in that case, and the UI Department of Public Safety is vowing to work with Iowa City to “provide as safe a community as possible” after also reporting a pair of sexual assault reports on campus Saturday.
In the first, UI officials received a report of a sexual assault in the early morning hours at an east side residence hall. The report, according to the campus warning, indicates the assault was perpetrated by an acquaintance.
The second came in just after 2 a.m. in the 300 block of East College Street. A woman told police she was speaking with a man in the breezeway next to an apartment building when he began to assault her, according to the alert. The victim yelled for help, prompting her attacker to flee, according to police.
The suspect in the second incident is described as being 6-feet tall and weighing 160-175 pounds. He has short hair and is between the ages of 25 and 30. UI police are continuing to investigate.
All UI sexual assault warnings come with the admonition that “the only person responsible for sexual misconduct is the perpetrator.” And a weekend safety message from UI Director of Public Safety Scott Beckner and UI Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers further condemns the violence.
“We are particularly disappointed in two crime alert warnings regarding sexual assault — there is absolutely no place for these actions on our campus,” the statement reads.
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The message reiterated a UI team is “working collaboratively to prevent violence, provide support to survivors and hold offenders accountable.”
Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa have not issued any crime alerts so far this academic year — although ISU did issue a statement condemning a racist social media post earlier this month.
Among proactive measures the UI Department of Public Safety is implementing this year is a #HawkeyeSafe public-awareness campaign encouraging students to play a more active role in campus safety. By using the hashtag, the department plans to share information about safety tools and community events aimed at fostering good relations between officers and the people they serve.
“The idea is to inspire the campus community to take preventive measures to enhance their personal safety while also encouraging students to invest time in looking out for one another,” Beckner said in a statement. “We know that safety and preparedness have to be a community effort.”
New and old UI programs in place this fall that aspire toward that goal include Nite Ride, a free late-night transportation service, and a Rave Guardian mobile app, which lets students request virtual escorts home, send anonymous crime tips, and phone police with a single panic button.
Nite Ride, which operates from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. seven days a week, has seen changes in recent years — as the service used to exclusively serve women. It’s now powered by a mobile app that allows students of any gender to arrange a ride and track arrival times from their cellphones.
The university also is offering several safety related trainings — including violent incident survival training, which prepares participants to “recognize, assess and respond to threats of violence you might one day face.” The training is based on the principles “run, hide fight.”
Rape Aggression Defense is a personal safety education course that teaches threat-avoidance strategies and real-world assault resistance. The 12-hour course, which includes basic self-defense techniques, aims to improve participants’ self-awareness and give them confidence.
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Two new programs this fall are “SHOUT,” and “Better Men. Better Hawkeyes.”
The former stands for “Students Helping Out” and trains student ambassadors to patrol student-sponsored events, student-related gatherings and downtown Iowa City during high-traffic events and weekends “with a focus on bystander intervention and overall safety.”
Ambassadors, among other things, will help arrange safe transportation, reconnect lost parties with their friends, and educate individuals about available resources.
“This program is focused on community service as opposed to law enforcement and compliance, and aims to create an opportunity for students to play an active role in making their campus safe,” according to a UI news release.
The “better men” program is a free, one-hour offering promoting “healthy masculinity across campus” by engaging students who identify as men in places they commonly convene. This offering “intends to address sexual violence by fostering large and small group discussions about gender stereotypes and sexual consent among peers.”
UI police also are hosting lunches and coffees “with a cop” throughout the semester as an opportunity for open and frank communication.
‘It’s on Us’
And Monday, UI Student Government kicked off “It’s On Us Welcome Week” — spring boarding off a White House initiative to end campus sexual assault.
Acknowledging research showing students are most likely to experience sexual assault within their first six weeks on campus, the UI initiative offers students the chance to take an “It’s On Us” pledge — committing to acknowledge nonconsensual sex is assault; identify situations in which assault might occur; intervene if necessary; and create an environment in which assault is unacceptable.
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