Last month’s two sexual assaults, the first reported cases of stranger rape on the Harvard campus in 12 years, loomed over this academic year’s move-in.
For incoming freshmen, notifications of the assaults were among the first e-mails sent to their Harvard University addresses. An e-mail from Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds came just six days before freshman move-in.
The first incident occurred on Aug. 10 in the Harvard Yard at 3:10 a.m. and the second was four days later on Aug. 14 near Oxford and Kirkland Streets. After each of these occurrences, the Harvard University Police Department sent out campus alerts, warning students to be mindful of their surroundings and not to walk alone at night.
Stranger rape, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, involves a perpetrator unknown to the victim.
According to HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano, an average of four acquaintance sexual assaults are reported to the department each year.
Yet several freshmen said they were not overly concerned by the alerts, explaining security concerns are to be expected in an urban environment.
“I didn’t feel worried because you will always run across these types of issues living in a city,” said Olivia Moseley ’16. “I feel really safe in the Yard.”
As in previous years, freshmen were required to attend Sex Signals, an educational performance, and attend a gender-segregated discussion run by the Office of Sexual Assault and Rape Prevention.
Some upperclassmen, however, found the assaults alarming, saying that they plan to alter their daily routines.
“A lot of people don’t realize how dangerous the Yard can be, especially late at night,” said Corinne E. Wee ’13. “In the dark, there are a lot of places to hide.”
“I don’t think I would walk alone as late as I used too,” she added.
Claire D. Stolz ‘15, a Cabot House resident, said that she found news of the second assault particularly jarring.
“I was pretty disturbed by news that [rape] had happened again so close to the beginning of the school year, especially since I live in the Quad,” she said.
Stolz said she now makes more of an effort to walk in groups and has discouraged her roommate from running late at night.
Victoria Zhuang ‘15, also a Quad resident, said the news cemented her decision to get a bike in order to avoid feeling “vulnerable.” Zhuang also prefers to walk with at least one friend after dusk, noting that she asked a friend to come get her from Shaws because she did not want to walk home alone in the darkness.
“I feel like I should be more on my guard,” she said.
Both Stolz and Zhuang said that they thought vigilance was important in maintaining safety.
“You always have to be careful,” Stolz said. “You don’t think it could be you, but it could be.”
—Staff writer Julia K. Dean can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.