Students victims of sexual assault

Two female Marquette students were the victims of daylight fourth degree sexual assaults last weekend.

On Friday, Sept. 2, a 21-year-old female student was walking up to her apartment building at 1618 W. Kilbourn Ave. at 3:17 p.m. when an unknown male approached her and asked her for a lighter, according to a report filed with the Department of Public Safety. He then grabbed her buttocks and fled. The student declined assistance from the Milwaukee Police Department.

Two days later, on Sunday, another student, also a 21-year-old-female, was walking on West Wells Street shortly before 6 p.m. when she realized she was being followed by an unknown male. After he followed her for about half a block, the student crossed to the intersection of North 11th and Wells streets. The man then came up behind her and grabbed her buttocks. At that point, the man fled and the student flagged down a L.I.M.O. van.

Capt. Russ Shaw, associate director of DPS, said it is unlikely in either case that the victim would have been assaulted further.

"I'm assuming he wasn't planning on attacking her," Shaw said of the Friday assault. "This all happened in broad daylight — kind of hard to do anything more," he said of both incidents.

Shaw said it is possible one man committed both fourth degree sexual assaults.

"There's a possibility (they're the same man), but these are two random incidents," he said.

Consequently, he said he does not think these two incidents forecast more assaults.

"It would certainly concern me more if we had received (another) complaint in the last few days, which we haven't," Shaw said. As of Friday, no reports similar to these two have been made.

DPS is not releasing a description of either suspect because the information it currently has is too vague, Shaw said.

To avoid similar situations, Shaw urged students to be aware of their surroundings and to make use of DPS.

"If you feel like someone's following you, we need to know about it," he said.

According to Wisconsin law, fourth degree sexual assault is a misdemeanor and is defined as sexual contact with a person without that person's consent. If convicted of such an offense, an offender can be punished with no more than nine months in county jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.

However, Shaw noted that punishment can also vary depending on previous criminal record, any outstanding warrants and other circumstances.

This article was published in The Marquette Tribune on September 13, 2005.