Since the start of the semester there have been three e-mails alerting students to assaults around campus and in town. These incidents have raised questions around campus about safety and concerns for wanting to avoid compromising situations. Students should be assured that these incidents are all isolated and should be treated as such.
A recent victim of one of these assaults is sophomore Jordan Gittens. Gittens was out for a night of fun with friends, when he was called a homophobic slur. Upset by the slur, Gittens confronted the group of men who yelled the slur to him. After a heated exchange of words the men threw punch and eventually stomped on Gittens, before running away from Gittens friends. “I was in utter shock from the event… it was completely unprovoked.” said Gittens.
After the fight, Gittens cleaned up before he proceeded to flag down campus officers to report the event on his walk home.
Gittens said that he is bothered that in modern society that a member of the warhawk community could be capable of a hate crime.
Gittens assault is similar to a 2010 incident where a female warhawk was punched and was also called a homophobic slur by a random passerby. Like the 2010 incident, Gittens attackers were never caught.
Whitewater senior Teresa Jesko said that the incident immediately reminded her freshman year; when there was a spurt of hate crimes in the UW system. Although she is not deterred from having the occasional night out, Jesko said, “ These events [assaults] will make me think twice about how and where I will go places around campus.”
University of Wisconsin Whitewater Police Chief Mathew Kiederlen had advice for staying safe around campus. The advice primarily related to following intuition, because your brain will help you detect unsafe situations. Your intuition is the greatest and easiest way to avoid problems when out and about. Chief Kiederlen said that if the fight or flight reaction happens, it’s usually a good time to leave as soon as possible. Although, judgment can be impaired through the use of alcohol and drugs such as marijuana, so be cognizant before choosing to use inhibitors.
Chief Kiederlen went on to give proven tips to stay safe that include:
- Avoid overconsumption of substances
- Watch drinks at all times, even around familiar people
- Travel in numbers and avoid being alone
- Stay in lighted areas
- Be aware of surroundings at all times
Chief Kiederlen says that following these steps can keep outings fun and safe. An example of implementing Chief Kiederlen’s advice was presented in the form of a walk home from a night of out. If you suspect a person is following you cross the street. If the person also crosses with you, either get out of the situation quickly or contact safety services.
Others around campus are unaffected by the recent assaults. Junior David Otto said that the assaults don’t look to affect him. Otto explained that just using his common sense has kept him out of trouble these past years.
It is important to remember that campus safety officers and police patrol every night of the week campus. Help is never far away and don’t be afraid to contact these services.