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Students want co-ordinated response to sex assaults

May 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, IN DEPTH, Lead Story, News

top pic

Staged artistic impression of ‘Rape Alley’

STUDENTS are calling for a coordinated response to recent sexual assaults on an infamous Wellington pathway known as ‘rape ‘alley’, along with other paths they consider dangerous.

Victoria University Student Association president Sonya Clark is calling for greater action to keep students safe on campus and around town, saying recent assaults have shocked the student community.

She says there have been three attacks reported so far this year on the pathway which runs between the university’s Boyd Wilson field and The Terrace, and they follow years of warnings about safety issues in the area.

Sonya Clark says the installation of extra lighting and CCTV cameras is a good start, but only part of the solution.

“It’s not just about one set of steps. Students tell us they feel unsafe around Dixon Street, Devon Street, and the many steps, pathways and alleys in Wellington after dark,” she says.

Sonya Clark says a coordinated response between the University and Wellington City Council is needed to improve the dangerous walkways, and condemn sexual assault.

Wellington City Council’s communications advisor Richard MacLean says council is very interested in hearing from those with concerns about the likes of Devon Street and Dixon Street and hopes to meet with the students association to discuss solutions.

“We are of course well aware that there are many pathways and alleyways around the CBD and that some of them might not appear safe or welcoming to some people after dark,” he says.

Nick Bohm, communications manager at Wellington District Police Headquarters says there are always areas where students and women need to be aware of their safety, particularly at night.

And Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee from the Wellington District Crime Squad is appealing for women and students to travel home from the city in a taxi or to walk with friends.

But Sonya Clark says it isn’t good enough to tell women, especially students, that they shouldn’t walk alone at night.

“Taxis are expensive and unaffordable. It’s unreasonable to expect students to catch a taxi every time they work late at the library or in town.”

She says while lighting and CCTV may act as a deterrent, assaults are not caused by a pathway, but by people who hurt other people.

She is calling for the university and city council to work closely with organisations like the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network to create a safer environment for students.

Fiona McNamara, co-ordinator at the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, says while it’s important for people to be careful when walking at night, focusing on how potential victims can protect themselves puts the responsibility on the victim to prevent rape.

“The responsibility for sexual assault lies with the perpetrator,” she says.

She’s asking people to challenge the beliefs, attitudes and culture that support sexually motivated attacks, and teach people skills to engage in alternatives to sexual violence such as safe, equal and healthy sexual relationships.

Victoria University student Emma Porter, who also works at the university, says there are many areas around the university that are poorly lit and have a dangerous feel to them.

“It’s creepy, I don’t like it, but I’d rather run through it quickly than pay for a taxi or go all the way around the main roads. The fact is, students and women should feel safe when walking through the main walkways to and from the university, work and home,” she says.

Fact File

2010 – VUWSA survey of 4000 students found that 26 per cent of women felt there was inadequate lighting and a lack of safe pathways on campus.

2012 – Over half the respondents to a VUWSA Campus Safety Audit reported feeling unsafe on campus after dark.  –  80 per cent cited poor lighting as the reason.

2012 – VUWSA discontinued the Campus Angels programme, which offered students company on the walk home.

2013 – At least one student assaulted on the Boyd-Wilson path. 2013 October – LED lights are installed along the Boyd-Wilson path.

2014 March –A new light is installed in the Te Aro School carpark.

March 28 –A student reported being assaulted on the Boyd-Wilson path.

April 19 – A woman was attacked on the Boyd-Wilson path.

April 20 – Another sexually-motivated attack reported on Fairlie Terrace in the early hours of the morning.

Wellington Police are urging anyone with concerns or information to contact them on (04) 472 3000, or ring Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 274 637.

A short film that shows how simple it can be to step in and prevent sexual violence is available at www.whoareyou.co.nz

 

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