Students respond to safety on UI campus

By Yasmeen Ragab, Contributing writer

As sexual assault rates on college campuses remain an issue across the nation, students like Sukanya Prasad, sophomore in Engineering, have taken the initiative to carry self-defense devices such as pepper spray wherever they go.

“My parents got (pepper spray) for me just so they knew I was going to be safe. Luckily, nothing has happened so far for me to use it,” Prasad said. “I have never felt personally unsafe … I tend to make sure I am with a group of people so that I always do feel safer when it’s later at night.”

According to a recent study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics Research and Development about sexual assault on college campuses, 21 percent of women and seven percent of men experience sexual assault in some form during their college years.

There have been 28 rapes reported between 2012 and 2014 at the University of Illinois alone, according to the 2015 Annual Safety Report. Another 30 aggravated assaults were also reported.

“Something that always scares me is the amount of email alerts that we get about incidents of sexual assault on campus,” Prasad said. “I’ve suddenly just become so much more aware of something possibly happening.”

Traveling together can significantly reduce your risk of being targeted by criminals on campus, according to the University of Illinois Police Department website.

Others believe that their safety from strangers on campus is not an issue because many sexual assault cases occur between people who know each other.

“Most incidents (of sexual assault) are cases where the two people are not strangers. So I am not afraid of a random stranger approaching me at night and being a threat,” Leeann Xoubi, freshman in LAS, said. “I tend to walk by myself or with one other person.”

The University has done what is needed to provide students with resources to report sexual assault, and it is just a matter of individuals reporting and communicating the incidents, Xoubi added.

Safe Walks and Safe Rides are provided free of charge by the University and the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District. Students, faculty, and staff can call anytime during the designated hours to request either one.

“The University resources are enough; students are just not well-informed about them. For example, I know about Safe Rides and Safe Walks, but they are not the first things that come to mind because they aren’t publicized,” Prasad said.

To request a Safe Walk, students can call (217) 333-1216. To request a Safe Ride, students can call (217) 265-RIDE.

Hours of operation for Safe Walks are from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Safe Rides are available from dusk to 6 a.m. daily.

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