Forum addresses fears about sexual violence

by Megan Boldt

University Police file about 2,300 reports annually, and less than 1 percent of those are sexual assaults, campus police detectives said Friday at a Coffman Union forum.
In response to increased student concerns about sexual violence, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group brought members of the University Police and the Program Against Sexual Violence together to calm fears.
More than 60 percent of crimes reported to University Police are property offenses. Assaults make up 2 percent of the crimes, said University Police Detective Marianne Olson.
“So it’s actually not very likely that you will be assaulted, especially a violent assault, when you’re on campus,” Olson said. “You really are relatively safe when you’re here.”
MPIRG members said they wanted to have an open dialogue to address the safety concerns.
“We really wanted people to have a place to come and feel that they can say what they are thinking and know that others feel the same way,” said Kirsten Johnson, a member of the MPIRG women’s issues task force.
University Police Detective Charles Miner and Olson spoke to about 20 students about police measures designed to protect students and faculty. About 70,000 people are on campus when school is in session.
Miner highlighted a few campus safety resources available to the University community:
ù Twenty campus blue-light systems alert a 911 dispatcher when activated.
ù All campus phones can be used to make an emergency call.
ù The campus security-monitor escort service provides assistance 24 hours a day.
Liz Tobin, PASV peer-education coordinator, said students can also use the program’s 24-hour crisis hotline. Trained student volunteers respond to the emergency phone calls and serve as advocates for sexual-assault victims.
The program does not have counselors on staff but can direct students to support groups.
“A lot of the time, people just want someone to talk to, and we are really good at listening,” Tobin said.
For the most part, students at the forum said they feel safe at the University.
Rachel Boeke, a College of Liberal Arts student, said she felt relatively safe but gets a little nervous when she works late on the West Bank. She called the escort service once and said it only took the security officer a few minutes to get to her workplace.
Miner and Olson also cautioned students and faculty members about date-rape drugs. Miner told the audience never to leave their drinks unattended at parties or bars and warned against accepting beverages from others.
Miner said the drugs can make a victim “comatose or paralyzed.”
One student suggested tightening security in residence halls. She said the University should put a coded lock on the bathroom doors as in St. Cloud State University dorms.
MPIRG is also considering giving students whistles to draw attention to themselves if they are ever attacked.

Megan Boldt covers police and welcomes comments at She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3224.