Uni's rape advice: wear runners, carry whistle

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2014
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CONTROVERSIAL ADVICE: Wellington's Massey has beefed up its security after a woman told police she was raped in Buckle St about 10 days ago. But the uni is facing online ridicule over their email advising women to wear running shoes to avoid being attacked.

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Wellington students have taken umbrage at a university's advice to evade rapists by carrying a whistle and wearing running shoes.

Massey University has beefed up its security measures after a young woman told police she was raped by a stranger in Buckle St about 10 days ago - but its advice to students has provoked ridicule on social media.

An email was sent to students last Friday night saying the university was taking steps to improve security, but in the meantime it advised students not to wear headphones, to walk confidently, to carry a whistle and torch, and wear running shoes.

Student Tory Leening, 22, who is part of the Massey University Friendly Feminists club, called the advice "insane".

"It made me feel weaker than I already do."

Fellow student Hannah Beattie said placing the onus on victims' actions was unhelpful.

"I don't think we should have to dress thinking ‘I could be raped'," she said. "There's a potential for people to read that and think that [the victim] must have been dressed wrong, maybe she didn't carry a whistle - when it wasn't that; it was that someone chose to attack her."

Advice needed to be more about consent, and to be directed at perpetrators, she said. "They have ‘stranger danger' talks at schools, but what about educating men about their attitudes towards women - it's always, ‘Don't wear short skirts.'

"I don't want to choose my outfits based on the possibility I might be sexually assaulted as I walk home."

Another student, Ellie James, said the Buckle St incident, reported to have happened near the National War Memorial early on Sunday, August 3, had upset many women, who felt they were not informed in good time.

"Many of the girls in my degree are 21 and work incredibly late hours. Some walk home at these absurd times. I drove girls home the other night because I am freaking out," she posted on Facebook.

Massey's email to students assured them an extra security guard would be patrolling the old Museum Building and Industrial Design department. It said the Buckle St incident did not appear to have any connection to university students or staff.

University spokesman James Gardiner said staff were informed of the incident first, and then it was decided that an advisory would be appropriate to remind all students about their personal safety.

"If students don't wish to carry whistles or wear running shoes, that's up to them, but that's just the advice from our health and safety people.

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"We don't seek to blame the victim. We're just trying to remind people to stay safe and help them."

Massey Wellington Students' Association president Todd Williamson said he had heard concerns from students about the university's handling of the incident. "The communication could have been disseminated better."

He is planning a workshop involving police, students and university authorities to address concerns about the incident.

Detective Senior Sergeant John van den Heuvel said: "Wellington City is a safe place and people shouldn't fear being attacked by strangers, it is not common.

"People should be reassured that that is the case and that it's also a good idea to have some common sense around personal safety - walk home together and stick to well-lit areas."

 

STAYING SAFE

Massey's tips

Walk with others if you can

Keep to well-lit areas

Be aware of your surroundings (headphones playing music can distract you)

Walk confidently, be observant

Report suspicious behaviour to campus security.

Report crimes, including threats, to police

Tell someone where you are working, what time you will be home

Carry a whistle and a torch

Have your car keys or house keys ready in your hand

If someone is following you, go to a place where there are people

Wear comfortable shoes, eg: running shoes 

- The Dominion Post

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