Students at the University of Western Ontario are planning to pull out of class Friday in what they oppose as a harmful campus culture after allegations that young women were drugged and sexually assaulted on a campus last week had gone.
London police say they have appointed several officers to investigate the allegations, but neither they nor the university have received any information so far, despite widespread discussions on social media. The origin of the allegations is unclear. Police are urging anyone who knows what happened to come forward.
At a news conference on Tuesday, London Police Chief Steve Williams said officers were knocking on doors at the Medway-Sydenham residence, where the attacks reportedly took place, and would continue to pursue the case. Chief Williams said he was aware of reports on social media in which more than 30 students were victims. But he said none of them had spoken to the police.
Chief Williams said, “Given the seriousness of these allegations, we have launched an investigation and are actively working in collaboration with Western University to identify and support any victims and ensure a full investigation.” “
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Twitter that he was “beyond disgusted to hear of allegations of sexual assault” in Western countries. He said that students deserve to feel safe on campus.
Western President Alan Shepard told reporters Tuesday that the university takes the allegations seriously and that campus security is a priority. He said the campus security patrol has been increased by 20 per cent in the last one week. He said a student foot patrol is available to move people from campus to campus, and no guests are allowed in university residences.
He also said that the university has changed its policies to make it easier for victims to report cases of sexual violence. Western, he said, would provide advice and assistance if anyone wanted to uncover an attack without going to the police.
“We really leave it up to the women or men who are making the disclosure to decide for themselves. We also recognize that sometimes these revelations come months or even years later,” Mr Shepard said.
Organizers of Friday’s campus protest have called on students to leave the classroom in the afternoon and gather in front of the university college. Organizer Hayden van Neck, a third year psychology student, said she was annoyed by what she had read on social media.
“I think some sort of institutional change is needed, because no one is really satisfied with how these things are dealt with, and I think this is a turning point,” Ms van Neck said.
He said the university needs to prepare student leaders to deal with potentially dangerous situations, and to provide more resources for students to navigate their first weeks at university, when the risk of sexual assault is particularly high. is considered to be intense.
Chiara Wallace, a first-year student living in the residence, said she plans to participate in the demonstration.
“I don’t feel safe,” said Ms. Wallace. “If it’s going to help more people feel safe on campus, if it’s going to change anything, I’m totally motivated to go.”
The London Police Service said it had received three reports of sexual assault on the western campus last week involving a total of four victims, although none of them were linked to Medway-Sydenham Hall. In one case, a person was arrested and released without charge, though the investigation is on, the police said.
Mr Sheppard said the university had removed the students from residence as part of a response to those four incidents.
Chief Williams said it could be difficult to advance an investigation that begins with allegations on social media.
“We all know how misinformation swirls around social media,” Chief Williams said. “It’s really a matter of knocking on the door and talking to people to get the facts. That’s exactly what we started doing yesterday and will continue to do so. We’ll go where the information takes us.”
In an unrelated incident around 2 a.m. on Saturday, first-year Western student Gabriel Neal was killed in a brawl near campus. A 21-year-old man has been charged with murder.
“It’s quite heartbreaking for all of us,” said Mr Shepard. “We are devastated by Gabe’s senseless death and our hearts are with his family and his friends and Westerners who came to know him.”
Mr. Neil, 18, had just arrived at the university. He had planned to study kinesiology and aspired to become a doctor one day. His family released a statement in which they described him as “a gentle and kind soul who became friends wherever they went.”
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