Response to violence

In light of the recent attempted abduction on Colchester Avenue, the murder at Yale and other incidents across the nation, it is important that we remind ourselves that acts of violence on and around college campuses, though rare, are real.It is not our intention to instill fear in the community, rather we feel that it is important to make sure that our students, staff and residents are well informed.According to the University of Vermont Women’s Center, last year 65 people reported incidents to the UVM Women’s Center Victim’s Advocate.  Fifty-four of these cases were violent, 22 were sexual assaults and in more than 80 percent the victim was a white female undergraduate student.This is not to say that all the men on campus should be blamed or feared as possible assailants.A 2005 study by the Department of Justice found that there is a very small minority of men committing these crimes and that most of them are repeat offenders.Therefore, it is not a problem of men against women. The solution, however, will require the cooperation of both sexes.Too often this topic is reduced to simple tips a woman can use to keep herself safe.  And even more problematic is that the victims are often seen as the ones who are at fault for failing to make safe decisions and follow the tips.The reality is that men can do just as much to help prevent this problem as women.Intervening before an intoxicated friend hooks up with a girl he does not know may prevent more than just an awkward morning after.Men can also look out for their female friends, whether it means walking them home at night or making sure they don’t leave with strangers at parties.Furthermore, it is important that we recognize the reality of violence in the community as a societal problem that we are all responsible for preventing. Creating an environment where it is not funny to joke about rape or relationship abuse is just one step we can all take to change the culture that has let this small minority of criminals exist. Not alienating a victim is another.  Victims need the support of their friends more than anything.This is not meant to be demeaning or frightening, but these crimes do happen, and we can’t ignore them, because when they do occur they destroy lives.The Women’s Center works closely with UVM Police, Res Life, Student Medical Clinics, ALANA and many other on-campus organizations to create a comprehensive “coordinated response.” If we want to put an end to the problem of violence and assault in our community, we the student body, need to become part of that coordinated response effort for the future.