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A more secure community

Less than a year has passed since several reports of sexual assaults against students reawakened the Duke community to the dangers of such attacks, and two more reminders have come all too early this year. Last weekend, an 18-year-old visitor reported being raped on campus by a student she apparently knew, and last Thursday a student reported that a man armed with a gun broke into her home and raped her. Police officials say the cases appear unrelated, and no one has been charged yet in either case, but the alleged incidents should serve as a warning as well as a call to action.

The off-campus incident is shocking in its violence and its randomness. Police officials believe it may be connected to a series of rapes around Durham in recent weeks, and that possibility points to a need to be aware when traveling or living in areas that students may not know well. Like any city, Durham has its dangerous areas, and all community members should know their surroundings and avoid traveling alone. No Duke initiative could have prevented the reported rape with certainty, but both the administration and off-campus students could take small steps to help prevent another incident. Neighborhood watch programs and other community-based anti-crime measures have proved effective, and Duke could play a role in organizing such a system. Moreover, students should get to know their neighbors and work to create a community in which sexual assault is watched out for. The worst thing that could come from this incident is students pulling back from interacting with Durham.

Although details remain scarce, the reported rape on campus seems to describe a situation that is unfortunately very familiar to many Duke undergraduates. Too often, young women end up in dangerous situations with men they know, who, confident in the knowledge that many such incidents go unreported, then take advantage of the women.

Police officials have not said if alcohol factored in the situation or what other circumstances might have led to an assault, but all students-not just women-need to take precautions to prevent similar assaults in the future. Students should make sure to be with friends and know where their friends are. Drinking to excess also increases the risk of falling victim to an attack. Events such as last Saturday's football win sometimes distract students from these responsibilities, but the dangers of sexual assault should always be in the back of a student's mind.

The reason students need to be so conscious speaks to the culture that continues to allow sexual assaults to be accepted. This culture will not change overnight, but then again, it has apparently not changed all that much in the last several years. For all the recent discussion of alcohol policies and campus climate, dialogue on the need for more respect for women has not included those individuals who really need to be part of the discussion. Holding all men responsible for sexual assaults would be unfair and inaccurate, but the need for discussion and commitment among men remains.


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