By SARAH L. OSTLER AND ELISA BALL
A BYU student was raped just south of campus early Sunday evening.
The victim was walking down the stairs just south of the testing center when a man initiated a conversation with her. The conversation was friendly — thought to try to gain her confidence and put her at ease, police said.
At the base of the hill, at 700 N. 300 East, he grabbed her, told her he had a knife, and would kill her if she resisted. He then pulled her into the bushes and raped her.
The man is described as being 5 feet 8 inches tall with a slim build, Provo police said. He has a dark complexion, possibly Hispanic or Middle Eastern. He had “missionary-cut hair and no facial hair,” said Lt. Greg DuVal of the Provo police detective division. The suspect was wearing light-colored pants and a blue polo-style shirt.
The previous Sunday, Nov. 23, a female student reported that she was confronted by a man in a light-colored suit, said Sgt. Bob Eyre of the BYU police crime prevention division.
The man put his hands on her shoulders and asked her if she remembered him. She said no, pushed him away and ran into the Karl G. Maeser Building. That incident, and the Sunday rape both occurred in the early evening.
The Nov. 23 incident was classified as a case of “mistaken identity,” said Lt. Greg Barber of the University Police administrative services division.
A person is not arrested for making a mistake, Barber said. But it was treated as suspicious activity, and the police responded when the victim called them. The police searched the area and questioned people. They did not find anyone who fit the description.
The man in the Nov. 23 incident and the man in the Nov. 30 incident have been described with similar height, weight and complexion characteristics. Police are treating the suspects as the same person. They are hoping someone saw something that will help the investigation.
Both women were walking alone in the evening. The police departments have suggestions for avoiding a confrontation.
“Lighting is the number one deterrent to crime,” Eyre said. Therefore students should avoid walking in dark places.
He also recommended students should walk with someone else — like a home teacher
“There is always safety in numbers,” DuVal said.
A few BYU wards have set up programs where women can call members of the Elders Quorum to accompany them at any time and to any given destination, said Mike Duff, a junior from Paul, Idaho, majoring in construction management.
He lives near the scene of Sunday’s rape and said he sees people walking alone at late hours all the time.
“Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. I don’t know a single guy that wouldn’t be willing to walk with someone or give someone a ride,” Duff said.
If a person needs someone to walk with, they can always call Safewalk. Safewalk is a program sponsored by the University Police and Student Life.
Safewalk was started last year to provide an officer escort anywhere on campus. The service is available from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The University Police respond to three to five calls each night. Two student security officers are usually sent, and will escort the person anywhere on campus.
“Our purpose is to provide security to the student body and faculty,” Eyre said. “Students should not be afraid to use the emergency phones.” The University Police is available 24 hours a day.
Eyre said there are not a lot of reported attacks that actually occur on campus and DuVal said the recent circumstances are unusual.
“BYU is one of the safest campuses in the United States,” Eyre said. But that does not mean there is no risk factor. To minimize future occurrences, students need to minimize chances.
Student Life and the University Police have ad campaigns to remind students to be careful. While occurrences may be rare, they do happen.
Most commonly, however, a person is raped by someone they know.
The nationwide statistic is that 75 to 85 percent of rapes are by acquaintances and Utah County statistics are similar to that, said Mindy Woodhouse, Rape-Crisis Team coordinator.
She works at the Center for Women and Children in Crisis where they have a rape-crisis hotline. The Rape-Crisis Team is trained to be advocates for survivors of rape and their significant others. Besides giving counseling, the team answers any questions regarding rape and provides suggestions for avoiding a sexual assault. The Rape-Crisis Team can be reached at 377-5500.
“The main thing is to trust your instincts. Listen to your gut feeling — and act on it,” Woodhouse said. Often, the first instinct is the right instinct.
She also said that women should be very clear about their boundaries and communicate those limits. Women need to realize they have the right to say no.
When going on a date, it is best to stick to groups until a woman knows the man well. She should always have a back-up plan to get home, Woodhouse said.
“Stay out of secluded areas,” she said. That is the safest and smartest precaution.
Men should also take precautions to avoid being accused of sexual assault.
“When in doubt, consult with your date. Never assume that silence means yes,” Woodhouse said. “Miscommunication is a major cause of date rape — take steps to clarify the situation.”
Just because a woman agrees to go out with a man, it does not mean she wants anything more than that. Nothing excuses rape. It carries serious consequences for both men and women, she said.
If anyone has any information about the suspect pictured in the composite, please call the University Police at 378-4051.