3rd forcible fondling near DU in 8 days

3rd forcible fonding near DU in just over a week
Posted at 5:20 AM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 02:06:25-05

There has been another forcible fondling case near the University of Denver, the third such incident in 8 days.

“It’s a little scary,” said DU Grad Student Gabi Whitmer. “We definitely get the emails, we get the alerts.”

Early Thursday morning, DU’s Campus Safety issued an alert warning students about an incident that happened at Iliff and Josephine just after 2 a.m.

DUAlert: Area searched. Suspect not found. No arrests made. Remain vigilant. Travel in groups. Remain in well lit areas.

— University of Denver (@UofDenver) January 28, 2016

MORE | University of Denver forcible fondling case prompts campus warning; 2nd in a week

A similar incident happened after 2 a.m. on Sunday, January 24, near S. Josephine and E. Asbury.

On Wednesday, January 20, a woman was accosted between 10:15 and 10:30 p.m. near S. High Street and E. Wesley.

Campus Safety officials say in all three cases, female students were walking alone at night, when a man approached them, forcibly fondled them and took off.

They don’t know if all three cases are connected, but say the description of the groper in each one is the same:  A college age white male, about 6 feet tall.

“Three in 8 days.  It’s kind of hard to think about safety on campus,” said DU student Brooke Shellhorn. “It’s very serious because it affects people’s lives.”

Several students told Denver7 they’re trying to be more mindful of their surroundings.

"I don't want to be that person and I want all my fellow classmates to feel safe as well," said DU student Kate Paterson. 

DU’s Assistant Director of Campus Safety, Jennifer Kogovsek, said all three women reported the incidents to Campus Safety, but didn’t feel comfortable reporting to police.

“It does make it hard (to find a perpetrator) when they don’t make a police report,” she said, “but it doesn’t mean we can’t use the information we have to try to figure out what’s going on.”

Kogovsek said Campus Safety shares what it learns with Denver Police.

Denver Police Department spokeswoman Raquel Lopez said they’ll use the information from DU to try to keep others in the area safe, but added, “It will be more difficult to try find who may be responsible.”

Shellhorn worries that the longer it takes, the more brazen the perpetrator(s) will become.

“It’s the third time and they haven’t been caught yet,” Shellhorn said. “If it’s the same individual, they’re getting more comfortable, the more they get away with it.”

In an email to Denver7, DU Campus Safety said “In light of three recent incidents of forcible fondling (a subcategory of sexual assault) that have occurred around the DU campus, the Department of Campus Safety is increasing patrols, including foot patrols to increase visibility and to accommodate requests for escorts on campus.  To request an escort at any time, day or night, please contact Campus Safety at 303-871-2334.

Kogovsek said 150 students have requested to be escorted to and from classes so far this month.

The email also suggests that students travel in groups, sign up for an introductory self-defense class and report any suspicious activity to the Denver Police Department (720-913-2000) and Campus Safety (303-871-3000).

It also recommends that students avoid avoid talking on their cell phone, listening to music or texting, especially when walking alone at night, as those actions might make them less aware of their surroundings.

“I don’t want those women spending tons of money riding Uber, avoiding classes or shifting and changing their lives in a way that negatively affects them,” said personal safety instructor Amelia Dorn of IMPACT Personal Safety of Colorado. “It’s the perpetrators that need to change their behavior.”

Dorn told Denver7 the “men on campus can do a lot to shift the culture, so we’re not telling women they need to be afraid. Guys can start offering, ‘Hey, can I walk you to, or from class?’”

In addition to raising awareness about their surroundings, Dorn said female students should use “whatever they’ve got” to ward off a groper.

“It might be a knee in the groin,” she said.  “It might be something else.”

“Think of a little kitten,” Dorn said.  “If you’re trying to put it in a bathtub, it would do whatever it takes to avoid the water.

She said it’s the same for students being groped. 

“Scratching, biting, hitting, and kicking, whatever it is, using your voice.  We have evidence that yelling helps in instances like this.”

Dorn said whenever there is a spike in alerts, she receives more calls from students wanting to learn about personal safety.

"The fact that these women got away safely from the groper shows they did good self defense," she said.