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UBC Sex Assaults Put Students On High Alert

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UBC staff and students are on high alert after a series of sexual assaults on campus.
UBC staff and students are on high alert after a series of sexual assaults on campus.

A series of sexual assaults at UBC has put the campus on high alert and students have been warned not to walk alone during late hours.

The latest incident saw a 17-year-old student assaulted while walking back to her residence just after midnight on Saturday.

The attacker put his hands around the woman's hips, tried to drag her into a wooded area and punched her in the face. He ripped at her clothes but later ran off when she screamed for help.

The suspect is described as a tall, thin man in his 20s or 30s with a possible American accent.

The news stirred a quick response from UBC as staff set up meetings on Saturday with students living in residence, VP students Louise Cowin told The Globe and Mail.

"There was very direct messaging from residence advisers to bring to [students’] attention that this was the third assault that had happened," she said.

"Before, the messaging had been very advisory in nature, where this was very explicit – ‘do not walk alone, and get out your cellphone and put these numbers in it.’”

Those numbers include that of AMS Safewalk, a service that provides a co-ed escort that will take students anywhere they need to go on campus. The number is (604) 822-5355.

UBC students Elana Cooper and Rachel Stiyer attended one of the meetings at Totem Park Residence on Saturday, The Vancouver Sun reported.

Stiyer told the newspaper that students were told to walk with a friend, call Safewalk or contact Campus Security instead of traversing the campus alone at night.

She said she always felt safe on campus before but called the incidents a "wake-up call."

"It’s sad you have to take actions outside of what you would normally do in order to be safe," Stiyer said.

Barry Eccleton, director of UBC Campus Security, has stepped up patrols and put up signs reminding students to be vigilant and walk in pairs at night.

Security issues persist at other student residences such as Ponderosa Commons, where a lack of door locks and security cameras has master's student Erica Sandhu concerned, CTV News reported.

"Anyone can just enter the building ... you don’t need a special key or a card to get in," she told the network.

"Anyone can come into the elevator at any time of the day and come up to the floors where the residents are."

Cowin told CTV News that Ponderosa Commons may not be secured due to construction delays, adding that she would look into the issue herself.

The latest incident follows another on Oct. 13 in which a 20-year-old woman was assaulted as she returned to her apartment at about 3:30 a.m. Another incident saw a 19-year-old woman flee a man who tried to grab her on Sept. 28.

Police suspect a single person in all three sex assaults, Global News reported.

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