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Letter: Concerning lack of communication regarding sexual assault

It’s 8:30 p.m. on Monday night, Sept.15. I’m looking through my usual round of news websites, seeing what’s happening in the world.

Then I see this headline on AZ Central: “ASU Police beef up patrols after campus assault.” I’m a Ph.D. student in the School of Community Resources and Development, and I couldn’t believe that this was the first I had heard of it. No email, no text alert.

I ask my wife, who works for the Dean’s office in the College of Public Programs if she has heard about an assault last week on the Tempe campus. She hasn’t. I think maybe we had somehow both missed it. So I email my colleagues in the Partnership for Community Development and my Ph.D. cohort. None of them has heard of the assault either.

Why are we just hearing about this?

Plenty of people around ASU work hard to make sure that students and staff are aware of the resources and precautions that students can take to protect themselves and seek help and healing when needed. Their work is important and to be commended. Continued support and expansion of those programs is needed.

But there is no excuse that students and staff should be left to find out nearly a week later, if at all, that an assault has happened on campus. This isn’t good enough for our community, particularly our young women who face sickeningly high odds of being assaulted. There is no reason the University with the largest undergraduate body in the country cannot muster the resources and planning to better inform our community in a timely manner when an assault has occurred in an area frequented by students, on campus or off.

Whether this is a campus police issue, an administrative issue, or some other group altogether, immediate change is needed. If we can get texts about chlorine spills, we can get texts about assaults. If we should avoid an area because of police activity, we should also be informed to avoid an area because of the potential for violence.

Let’s hope that changes are made rather than passing the buck or explaining why it’s someone else’s job. The fact is a woman was sexually assaulted on campus and students and staff were not sufficiently made aware. We can do better.

Bjorn Peterson

Ph.D. Student, School of Community Resources and Development

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