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May 4, 2014 | by  | in Opinion VUWSA |
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Presidents Column

Like many of you, I was shocked when I heard over Easter that a series of sexual assaults on women had occurred by Boyd-Wilson Field, following an attempted attack just a few weeks earlier. Messages and media calls have flooded in, asking who is to blame and what will be done to change it. It’s fair to say that this news has really rocked the Victoria community, especially Te Puni residents who depend on the path for access between their Hall and town.

Unfortunately, people have been attacked here before, and students, including VUWSA, have raised concerns about this badly lit pathway for a really long time. A lot needs to happen, and quickly.

Change is afoot. Last Thursday, I met with the University. We agreed that a number of options would be investigated, from panic buttons and emergency towers to maintaining the safe van, and looking at University-based community watch programmes, and walking groups. We also agreed that a whole lot of smaller things needed to happen – from making sure students were made more aware of the security toll-free numbers (so you can text someone the moment you notice the light out, or someone hanging around) to a workshop with students, the University and the Wellington City Council so that the broader issues of safety in Wellington can be addressed – it’s not just one pathway that makes people uneasy at night.

These are good steps. But the major thing that must change is that one organisation needs to take care of maintaining the Boyd-Wilson pathway – the land has often been in dispute. Action has been slow when Victoria has to talk to the Council who has to talk to the residents and the School. Last year some lighting was improved, but there shouldn’t have to be a meeting every time a light breaks or the trees grow back. This is a broader problem – the University needs to make sure everyone knows who to email or text when a light is out on campus. This stuff is super-basic. One contact is needed.

Finally, a lot of the messaging has focussed on what students, especially women, should do to keep themselves safe at night – we are told to not walk alone, to use a safety app, or take a taxi. Sticking with friends, using safety apps and taking a taxi are really good things, but it is important to remember that ‘dodgy pathways’ do not cause assaults. People do. This means that it is never ever the fault of the victim. We’re pleased that the University is taking steps to talk to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network about better education in this area.

Don’t hesitate to send me an email telling me your thoughts.

Kia kaha,
Sonya

M: 027 563 6986
DDI: (04) 463 6986
E:  sonya.clark@vuw.ac.nz
W: www.vuwsa.org.nz

 

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