Rally against violence at West Chester University

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May 6, 2014 3:34:43 PM PDT
Several attacks on female students at West Chester University last month prompted students to step up and demand a safer campus today.

It's finals week, which is a busy time when students are preoccupied with closing out the spring semester. But still roughly 100 students gathered in the quad at midday to talk about a compelling issue at West Chester and at virtually every other campus across the country - sexual assault.

There were five reported cases at West Chester University in April.

Students came forward Tuesday - many of them previous victims - to speak out from personal experience.

One student, Katie, said to the crowd, "I stopped going to class for weeks because of what he did to me. And now I know that I survived and I want everyone to know that if you've been sexually assaulted, to just come out and talk about."

West Chester University junior Shannon Bertoli said, "We're willing to say that someone has robbed someone and call them a robber, or willing to say someone has burned something down and call them an arsonist. But we will jump through hoops not to call someone a rapist, and it's not OK."

School officials say there has never been a string of reported sexual assaults this long in anyone's memory. Still they are deeply concerned and doing all they can within the law.

Bertoli had a suggestion, saying, "I would like more conclusive and inclusive focus on this issue during orientation. And I'd like every student organization to have a mandatory consent workshop for every member of the organization."

In one of the incidents, a 61-year-old suspect caught on surveillance video was not a student at the university - just an intruder on campus who accosted a young female student in one of the libraries. The Chester County prosecutor is handling his case.

Young female students were not alone in speaking out today.

Senior student Malik Muhammad said, "It's up to us to really start to take a stand against it. For too long women have been in the fight alone in trying to end sexual and gender-based violence."

Andrew Ramiez says, "Most sexual assaults are committed by men. And it is our job to recognize this is happening on our campus and it's our job to do what we can to stop it from happening."

In two of those five cases two of the women who were initially making claims of assault have refused to press charges any further, and those charges are still being investigated by the District Attorney.

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