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Reported attack leads to new locks, more security

As the Duke University Police Department continues to search for the man who reportedly assaulted a female student in a Wannamaker Dormitory bathroom Wednesday morning, University officials are preparing to install sex-specific locks on dorm bathroom doors across campus.

Locksmiths will install the first new locks in Wannamaker women's bathrooms today, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said. They will proceed with other dorm bathrooms on both West and East Campus after fall break.

The new sex-specific locks would mean more security than the current system, in which allresidents can use their keys to unlock all bathrooms in their dorm. Students will now have two sets of keys--one for their dorm room and one for their sex-specific bathroom.

Meanwhile, police are still questioning residents and gathering information about Wednesday's incident, in which a man waiting inside a second-floor bathroom physically attacked and sexually assaulted the woman.

"We have gotten a few leads that we are following up, but we have nothing conclusive at this time," said DUPD Maj. Robert Dean. He added there is a possibility the assailant is a student.

After an initial struggle with the attacker, the woman managed to escape to her room and called the police. Assistant Dean of Residential Life Deb LoBiondo said the woman is doing okay and is expected to return to school after fall break.

The assailant was described as a white man, 18 to 25 years old, between 5'10" and 6' tall, with a stocky build and longish brown hair. He was wearing a red shirt and jeans. A police composite sketch was distributed widely across campus via e-mail and flyers Wednesday.

Police told Wannamaker residents in a Wednesday night meeting that another woman had used the bathroom around 4 a.m. that morning and that the man was not there at the time. He entered the bathroom some time between then and the 5:20 a.m. attack.

Unlike many other bathroom doors across campus, the bathroom door in Wannamaker was not propped open, LoBiondo said. A campus-wide locked bathroom door policy was instituted last spring, following an alleged sexual assault in Randolph Dormitory on East. The University began fining residents for propping open doors this semester.

Moneta noted that because students need to be on campus to receive their new keys, most of the lock-changing will take place after fall break.

"We are also looking in the long-term into card-swipe technology [for bathroom access], as well as a panic alarm in bathrooms that you could just hit," Moneta said.

At Campus Council's Thursday night meeting, the residential life governing body endorsed the first phase of changes. Campus Council members said many of their female residents are afraid to use bathrooms alone. The University has offered Wannamaker residents staying on campus for fall break the opportunity to spend the weekend in a Central Campus apartment. LoBiondo said two women have accepted the offer.