Safety of women should be priority

By By Alicia Williams

By Alicia Williams

The evening before America celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, the world sorrowfully digested the news that Annie Le’s body was found stuffed inside the basement wall of a campus lab, on what was supposed to be her wedding day.

The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported the 24-year-old Yale University graduate student died of “traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression.” This inspiring young woman entered her workplace8212;a secured university building8212;around 10 a.m. on Sept. 8 and faced every woman’s fear8212;the brutal ending of her life.

An estimated 4.9 million, reported and unreported, violent crimes occurred in the United States during 2008, according to a Sept. 2 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ continuous National Crime Victimization Survey of 77,852 people. Astoundingly, these violent crime rates are at the lowest level since 1973 and have actually dropped 41 percent during the past 10 years.

President Barack Obama said Sept. 14 that though the VAWA has played an intrinsic part in reducing violence against women during the past 15 years, it’s still not enough.

“Despite this great progress, our nation’s work remains unfinished,” Obama said. “We must prevent the homicide of women and girls who have suffered from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.”

On the same day, the Department of Justice released a statement that the anniversary celebration would mark the beginning of a yearlong effort to raise public awareness of issues concerning violence against women. The fact that the recognition event coincided with the murder of Le has become a sad reminder of why these programs are so vitally important.

Issues of woman’s safety are prevalent at any time or place but especially on university campuses where there are large numbers of young, vulnerable women. The Utah Department of Corrections Sex Offender Registry disturbingly identified 11 violent offenders living within .25 miles of Presidents’ Circle and 129 offenders within a 2-mile radius.

Fortunately, the U has a relatively low rate of violent crime represented in the Department of Public Safety Crime Statistics, which lists one murder at a non-campus property in 2007, as well as five forcible sex offenses and seven aggravated assaults.

Even so, Sgt. Arb Nordgran of the U Police Department said women on campus need to be aware and prepared for an attack at all times. He said that any student who has even the tiniest bit of fear should take advantage of the U’s Walk in the Dark program and familiarize themselves with the locations of the 185 emergency phones scattered across campus.

“No matter where you go, there will be bad people who do bad things,” Nordgran said. “We work as a department to do whatever we can to make this a safe campus.”

One important thing U Police have done to increase women’s safety on campus is to reopen the Rape Aggression Defense program, which was suspended last year because of budget cuts. The six-week RAD System’s all-women course begins Sept. 30, costs $25 and will be taught by certified RAD instructors.

Le was an innocent victim of a sadistically cruel person. Her death now symbolizes the promise of VAWA to one day end gender-motivated violence. In the meantime, a woman’s best defense for physical violence is to have a trained offense. Le said it best in her February 2009 article for B-Magazine, “Crime and Safety in New Haven”: “With a little street smarts, one can avoid becoming yet another statistic.”

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