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BU Student Sexually Assaulted on Esplanade

Police urge caution in wake of attack

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Officials are once again cautioning the community to be careful along the Charles River Esplanade after a BU student was assaulted early Friday morning.

The 18-year-old female, whose identity has not been released, was sitting on a bench across from the Silber Way footbridge around 1 a.m. Friday morning when she was allegedly attacked by an adult black male of slim and lanky build between 6 feet and 6 feet, 4 inches tall. He was described as having a shaved head with visible stubble and appeared to have a mole on the right side of his face and gaps between his teeth.

The woman escaped uninjured and reported the incident later that day to the Boston University Police Department. The Massachusetts State Police, which has jurisdiction over the Esplanade, has since taken charge of the investigation.

This is the first such incident reported since August 14, when another BU student was allegedly sexually assaulted on the Esplanade, just east of the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. The unidentified upperclassman had been walking home from a nightclub around 1:30 a.m. when she was attacked.

Police officials are investigating whether the incidents are linked to an earlier spate of attacks along the Esplanade.

A statement released Sunday by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office and the Massachusetts State Police stated: “While there is no immediate evidence to suggest that this individual is the one responsible for three unsolved attacks on the Esplanade in 2007 and in South Boston in 2006, police and prosecutors are reviewing the facts for potential links as a matter of course.”

“Even if it’s not connected, it’s a dangerous situation,” says BU Detective Lieutenant Peter DiDomenica. “Another person is out there doing it. Either way, it doesn’t minimize the seriousness of it.”

In an email sent to the BU community yesterday, BUPD Chief Thomas Robbins stressed the importance of being aware of your surroundings at all times, on or off campus, and offered some safety reminders: walk with friends or others in the area, especially at night; use the University’s escort security service (617-353-4877) at night if you don’t have anyone to walk with; keep valuables out of sight; and report suspicious behavior immediately to the BUPD at 617-353-2121 or by texting anonymously to 847411, keyword BU.

While no one can completely prevent attacks, it’s helpful to keep these public safety tips in mind. DiDomenica advises that students carry cell phones in case of an emergency and that being aware of their surroundings means no headphones or long cell phone conversations.

“People that prey on victims, they’re looking for someone that’s weak, that’s vulnerable,” he says. “If you don’t pay attention, you’re more of a target.”

17 Comments
Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

17 Comments on BU Student Sexually Assaulted on Esplanade

  • Mo on 03.27.2012 at 9:28 am

    My prayers and thoughts go out to this BU freshman. Sad situation. As the weather gets warm, this story reinforces that the esplanade at night is a ‘summer home’ for the homeless, drug users and ‘sketchy’ members of society. BU is NOT a contained campus in a big city that has all the problems that go along with that. I think students get comfortable and let their guards down as they think they are invincible. When parents, BU police, Dean Elmore etc, all talk about the ‘buddy’ system, escort service etc, it’s because we know what can happen and we care. We care, not trying to baby anyone, so please young ladies take away from this tragedy a lesson in being vigilant in making safe choices.

  • Jack on 03.27.2012 at 11:15 am

    Mo, not every homeless individual or drug user is a “sketchy” member of society that is looking to rape, murder, steal, and assault someone the first chance they get. Take off your blinders. Most of the homeless people I’ve met in Boston have had much more compassion and and humanity than a lot of the BU students I meet.

    • Mo on 03.27.2012 at 12:01 pm

      I’m well aware of that, but many are down handout because of alcohol and drug use. Take off your blinders too. I meant no disrespect to the homeless, andknew when I posted that someone was gonna jump all over that. The real issue is the safety of the young women at BU as I have a daughter who is a student there as well. There has been such bad press these days with regard to BU from hockey players, to peeping toms, to the esplanade. I’m having moments of ‘buyers remorse’ in terms of safety at BU.

  • Julie on 03.27.2012 at 11:16 am

    FYI I don’t think you need to put ‘allegedly’ to say an assault ‘allegedly’ took place (the August 14th incident). It’s only used when talking about people who have been accused but not convicted. No need to unnecessarily question whether the assault happened.

  • Kitty on 03.27.2012 at 11:52 am

    This article isn’t clear at all about what is reported to have occurred: Most people take “sexually assaulted” (in the headline) to mean “raped.” Nowhere in the article is the nature of the attack described as a rape or attempted rape. The fact that the student –thankfully– “escaped uninjured” and “reported the incident…later that day” suggests this incident was not a rape. No one who is the victim of a rape or attempted rape escapes uninjured. Massachusetts law defines a number of assaults (no touching) and batteries (unwanted touching) for the sexual gratification of the attacker. It would be helpful if the writer were familiar with the correct descriptors for what took place—we really have no idea what that was, except that it was not good.

    • Jean on 03.27.2012 at 6:54 pm

      Examples of sexual assault include:
      -Someone putting their finger, tongue, mouth, penis or an object in or on your vagina, penis or anus when you don’t want them to;
      -Someone touching, fondling, kissing or making any unwanted contact with your body;
      -Someone forcing you to perform oral sex or forcing you to receive oral sex;
      -Someone forcing you to masturbate, forcing you to masturbate them, or fondling and touching you;
      -Someone forcing you to look at sexually explicit material or forcing you to pose for sexually explicit pictures

      I’m guessing that the article is vague because the police aren’t giving a lot of information in order to protect the identity of the student.

  • Mo on 03.27.2012 at 12:09 pm

    Omg. I am so sick of hearing about these attacks on the esplanade. In this age of technology can’t we catch this guy/ guys red handed? Can’t BU police step it up so BU students and their parents can feel safer??? I’d volunteer to sit my ass on an esplanade bench at 1 a.m. any day of the week if I had police backup. Let’s get this SOB and put him in jail asap.

  • ST on 03.27.2012 at 1:09 pm

    What we need to do is stop pretending that BU is some kind of safe haven, separate from larger society. Sexual Assault happens everywhere, at any point and it’s not because women are not careful. It’s because we live in a society where sexual violence and misogyny is tolerated. And it’s not just homeless men that are committing assaulting women: it’s hockey players, it’s politicians, it’s the most affluent to the downtrodden. Perhaps men (and some of them are victims of sexual assault as well) need to be educated too–perhaps they need to be told that whistling at, touching, and approaching a woman without her consent is WRONG.

    • RS on 03.28.2012 at 1:02 am

      Thank you!!!!!! And I agree with your point below; it’s an absolute indicator of the rape culture we live in that we deal with sexual assault by teaching the victim what to do to not get raped, rather than TEACHING RAPISTS NOT TO RAPE.

  • ST on 03.27.2012 at 1:23 pm

    I’m so sick of hearing about what women have to do “to prevent sexual assault” (like if walking only in the daylight, wearing a turtle neck and long pants, and moving in herds would actually prevent sexual assault). We are at risk even if we modify our behaviors or not. What about what men have to do? What is BU doing to educate men? What is BU doing to ensure that it is not fostering the kind of environment where women (certain men) can be mistreated?

    • GE on 03.27.2012 at 6:16 pm

      Those were exactly my thoughts when I read this. Just once I’d like to hear announcement from the police, the dean, the president, whatever saying that sexual assault is not tolerable under any circumstances. No means no. I’m so tired of hearing that I need to be careful because I’m a girl. I do that already. But I’d like to hear the males reprimanded for these reprehensible actions.

  • Mo on 03.27.2012 at 8:15 pm

    Excellent point ST!

  • anne on 03.27.2012 at 11:02 pm

    I’m very sad to hear that this happened, and my heart goes out to the student this happened to. I agree it gets tiresome to hear about what we should be doing to prevent assault, but it is important to remind students about these preventative steps. Obviously you can never prevent 100%, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to be careful. However I agree that it would be helpful to try and educate bu students and eventually the public the seriousness of sexual assault and what exactly classifies as sexual assault. I think that one of the biggest issues is that many people don’t realize that what they are doing is wrong or that the behavior is unwanted. Of course oftentimes the perp knows very well that what they’re doing is wrong, but often in college there is this disconnect between what is and isn’t okay.

  • Commenter on 03.28.2012 at 11:51 am

    When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

  • NJ on 03.28.2012 at 2:30 pm

    As an African American woman, I am having mixed feelings about this case. On one hand, as a woman I know that sexual assault happens at an alarming rate-both on and off campus and that we live in an environment where violence and discrimination against women is condoned. I have no doubt in my mind that this woman was assaulted and to deny that would be me reinforcing violence and discrimination against women. On the other hand, as an African American, I feel that this case feeds into the perpetuation of black males as rapists and criminals. I am not saying that this woman was not assaulted by a black man because I believe that she was but I think there is an unequal balance of coverage in these cases. When the perpetrator is black we get a full description and an accompanying WARNING message about him but when the perp is white-his whiteness is excluded from BU TODAY articles and campus wide emails. This is actually the first time in my experience at BU that a full racial description has been captured in one of these articles YET I’ve heard of numerous sexual assault incidents involving white BU (male) students. BUPD and BU Today has not emphasized the racial background of any of the men involved in the gang rapes occurring on campus nor the video tapping of women taking showers in various dorms. So, I’m really trying to reconcile these two realities. If we are going to be warned, let’s be warned across the board–and let the coverage be equal.

    • MC on 03.30.2012 at 7:04 am

      NJ… Thank you. As an African American male between 6 and 6’4, I have felt very uncomfortable walking around BU’s campus since this article was published. I have number of other friends who have felt the same way. It’s wrong/irresponsible what Leslie Friday did in this article, using such a broad description, while at the same time making sure people knew that it was a tall black male. The perpetrator is not going to be caught with a description like that. We all know that… including Leslie. It just continues to create a culture that fears people like me.

  • Mike on 04.03.2012 at 1:20 pm

    As someone who is both a journalist and a black male between 6′ and 6’4″, and with a daughter accepted to BU…I have no problem with the description being in this story.

    The suspect was identified with specific characteristics other than race that gave a green light to including a description within the story, especially the details that narrow the field considerably. If the article had stopped at saying a black male of a certain height, I’d be among the folks tut-tutting. But ID’ing the person as having a “shaved head with visible stubble, a mole on the right side of his face and gaps between his teeth” adds the necessary specificity.

    Let’s turn that indignation toward more volunteer patrols.

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