After a delayed response informing the public of the alleged assault of a 27-year-old woman, Ryerson security takes the next steps in protecting its students. News Editor Rebecca Burton reports
Ryerson’s campus was postered with security watch alerts after an alleged sexual assault of a 27-year-old woman by six males in the Yonge and Eglington area. The woman was coerced into a black mini-van at Yonge and Gerrard streets at 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 3, just steps away from campus. The woman reported that she was taken away and sexually assaulted by the group of men.
According to Mark Pugash, the head of the Toronto Police communications department, the police are currently working with the victim to narrow down the location of the assault.
While Pugash says that there is no direct link between the victim or the suspects to Ryerson, the proximity to campus has left community members asking if enough action has been taken to warn students.
Heavy criticism arose against the Toronto Police and Ryerson security for not adequately warning the public of the crime. Security watch bulletins were posted on Jan. 6, three days after the incident.
According to Tanya Fermin-Poppleton, operations manager of security and emergency services, Ryerson only released their security notice when they had all the information that Toronto Police would provide to them. “There was no delay on our part,” she said.
But Pugash says that putting up bulletins around campus is not the most effective way of protecting potential victims.
“We’ve been working closely with agencies that deal with violence against women and they say warnings are inappropriate because it is blaming the victim,” he said.
The map of Ryerson extends to the border of Victoria and Gerrard streets, excluding the Gerrard and Yonge intersection. However, some students are troubled that the assault took place around the corner from campus.
“I didn’t hear about it. I didn’t get any warnings,” said Laura Stevens, a first-year nursing student.
Fellow first-year nursing student, Paulina Szmudrowska, found out the crime through news reports.
“It’s scary knowing it [happened] right down the street,” she said. “My mom’s constantly calling me.”
For first-year fashion communication student Holly Wiancko, who lives mere steps away in the Campus Commons building at Gerrard and Church streets, it was a reminder to be aware of her surroundings.
“I still feel secure, it’s just a matter of walking around while being safe. Especially if it’s night time you shouldn’t be alone,” she said.
No specific details were released on how the woman was coerced into the car. According to Fermin-Poppleton the men in the car stopped and told the woman to get in.
“It doesn’t sound like she was grabbed or anything of that nature. They just said ‘get in’, and maybe that was an intimidating factor for her,” she said.
While much of the heated debate surrounded the delay in relaying information to students, Caitlin Smith, president of the Ryerson Student’s Union, is concerned about preventing problems like this in the future. The timing coincides with the launch of the Ryerson sexual assault survivor’s support line through the Women’s Centre, which is set to go live in February.
“Regardless of the location, not that it was just up the street, it’s about woman’s safety in general. Clearly we’re not past these acts of violence happening,” said Smith.
Although the campus currently provides 24/7 security patrols and a walk safe program, Fermin-Poppleton said they will be getting more of their officers to talk to students, and telling them what services they have at their disposal.