A semester of violence at UVM

Officer Sue Roberts uses the blunt edge of her fist to incapacitate an attacker, breaking their nose, temporarily stopping the assault. Although she is not fighting an actual perpetrator, the students taking the self-defense class still smile and giggle uncomfortably.”We need to train ourselves to be more obnoxious… It’s hard to get past the hurdle of striking back, of giving yourself permission to hit,” Roberts said. With the violent death of Michelle Gardener-Quinn and recent attacks in dorms, there is a wary feeling on campus, according to Roberts. In 2004 there were seven forcible rapes and 19 nonforcible rapes, 26 sexual assaultsin total. Between 2003 and 2004, burglary rates dropped from 159 to 79, only to increase to 93 in 2005. Although there seems to be no steady increase in violence specifically in 2006, an increase in population at UVM leads to an increase in violence, Roberts said.The UVM annual crime report does not include the number of anonymous reports, leading to incongruent numbers. Gender violence itself is under reported, women’s center director LuAnne Rolley said.Over the past year Rolley has seen increased numbers of students using the services provided by the women’s center. “Even prior to Michelle’s death we have seen an increase in students, but I know when students see things happening to a friend, that raises awareness,” Rolley said.Person X, who does not wish his identity to be revealed, is one of those victims. He was downtown by South Willard Street when a drunken man stumbled into him.”I jokingly told him to watch where he was going and I asked what street I was on, because I didn’t have my glasses. Instead of telling me, he hit me and said ‘that will teach me to not be so rude next time,'” Person X said. Person X, who identifies as a transgender male, said, “this was a gender related attack, once he picked me up and my shirt ripped and he realized I wasn’t biologically male, the attack got worse.” Eventually, the victim was able to escape and run to the library. “I would have looked normal to anyone sitting around me, after about 30 minutes, I was able to run back to L/L. I was crying and shaking and I couldn’t say what happened,” Person X said.Beyond the immediate physical damage of the attack, Person X said he couldn’t sleep or eat for days and ultimately was prescribed anti-anxiety drugs by a doctor.”I still feel like I can’t stay in one place for too long, it has made me question my identity,” he said. Person X has not returned to the scene of the crime but feels as if students take the safety of the campus for granted. “I don’t think it’s as safe as it looks.People have this myth in their head it’s the safest place in the world, but it’s a city and people forget that. Looks can be deceiving. “Everyone knows you shouldn’t walk by yourself, but it only takes once, be cautious instead of having to go through this, it’s not worth it,” Person X said.AG, who did not want her identity revealed, believes the campus itself is unsafe. In 2004, AG and her roommate were sexually assaulted and raped. According to AG, this was made possible by an inadequate security system. “After I escaped he was still able to find me. I swiped myself to get into my dorm but because of UVM’s system for 45 to 60 seconds the door stayed unlocked. He was able to find our room because it said our names on the door,” AG said.According to AG, UVM did not give a lot of support to her or her roommate, prescribing her tranquilizers after her first appointment at the women’s center, and losing all her information at the second meeting. “If I’m not important as a sexual assault victim, than who is important. When I told one of my sociology professors he said ‘What do you want me to do about it? “I understand why women don’t tell. When my friend came back to school, the women’s center was supposed to pick her up and they forgot,” AG said.According to officer Roberts, violence is everywhere.”I wish we could be as independent as we want, I wish we could make consent sexy, but we all have the burden to watch each other.”