University of Virginia officials and police are doing what they can about an alleged sexual assault case, but there's a big hang-up. An official investigation cannot get underway - because they do not know who the victim is.
An anonymous report was filed Sunday through a website sponsored by the university's dean of students office and the women's center.
Now they are working to provide support for an alleged victim without knowing her name.
"The anonymous report like this doesn't come up too often, particularly a stranger rape situation," said Melissa Fielding, with UVA police.
Sunday, UVA officials received an uncommon report - providing details of a violent sexual assault with no identity for the victim.
"The difficulty here is we don't have a survivor who has actually reached out to us individually so it's difficult to conduct an investigation without someone who wants to participate in that process with us," Fielding said.
The anonymous report says a Charlottesville woman was walking to her house last Friday morning around 2:30 in the area of Valley Road and Brandon Avenue. That's when she was dragged by at least two unidentified men to an isolated area and sexually assaulted.
Now officials are speaking to the alleged victim indirectly - through her roommates who chose to file the report.
"We do receive a report and if they'd like to be contacted, they can put their contact information in there so that's an option, but people don't have to," said Claire Kaplan, with the UVA Women's Center.
UVA officials and police emphasize they do not want the alleged victim to feel forced to come forward - but are ready to help if and when she does.
"We don't force anybody to do anything so it really has to be the survivors' decision to seek assistance from the dean of students or from the women's center or from any other source," Kaplan said.
Fielding said, "We did attempt to canvass an area where the alleged incident occurred. Police departments can use this information to direct resources and patrols, but we'd really like to work to identify the individuals responsible so that we can remove them from the streets."
UVA police say the key tip to help prevent crimes like this is reporting suspicious people or activities as they occur. They have also reached out to Charlottesville police because the alleged assault happened inside city limits.
University of Virginia Police NOTIFICATION
To the University community:
On May 5, 2013, University of Virginia officials received an anonymous report that a Charlottesville resident was walking to her home on May 3 at approximately 2:30 am in the area of Valley Road and Brandon Avenue when she was dragged by at least two unidentified males to an isolated area and sexually assaulted.
Anyone with information about the assault should contact the Charlottesville Police Department or Crimestoppers at 434-977-4000. You may also provide information through the UPD Silent Watch Program at www.virginia.edu/uvapolice/report_crime.html
While becoming a victim is never the fault of a victim, the National Crime Prevention Council has established the following list of practices that may help safeguard individuals from becoming victims of crime:
* Stand tall and walk with confidence. * Watch where you are going and what is going on around you. * Walk along well lit and busy streets. * Walk with friends and avoid shortcuts, dark alleys, deserted streets and wooded areas. * Identify reliable safety monitors who can alert police in the event something suspicious or criminal occurs. * Everyone should know their limits with alcohol.
Everyone, both women and men, should know what can be done if someone you know has been sexually assaulted. A sexual assault is a traumatic experience and no one should feel forced to do anything; however, below is a list of options that one may utilize if they so choose:
* Calling someone you trust -- no matter how late it is, as you may not wish to be alone. Consider calling a close friend or a Residence staff member. * Go to a safe place. Consider going to your room, a friend's room, or anywhere you will feel safe. If you are in a public area far from home, go to an open business and ask the manager for help. * Seek medical treatment IMMEDIATELY. You do not have to report to the police to receive medical care or have evidence collected. Don't bathe or douche, change clothes, eat, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom or brush your hair, as you might destroy useful evidence. Go immediately to the U.Va. Emergency Department. Seeking medical attention is vital, as you may have injuries you are unaware of. A forensic nurse examiner can perform a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK), if the assault occurred within 72 hours. If you are unsure about reporting the assault to police, it makes sense to allow medical professionals to collect evidence to preserve the option of later making a police report. A SARA advocate can be available to assist you through this process. * Reporting the incident to police is also an option; whether or not you plan to pursue criminal charges. Reporting the assault does not commit you to filing charges. You can make that decision later in collaboration with the Commonwealth's Attorney. * Do NOT blame yourself. IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT! Your behavior DID NOT cause the assault. * Consider getting help and support, such as counseling. A sexual assault is an extremely traumatic incident; it is often easier to get some help in dealing with the situation rather than handling it on your own.
Take advantage of the resources available for victims of sexual assault, or encourage their use. Sources of support include the Office of the Dean of Students, the Women's Center, Counseling and Psychological Services in Student Health, the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, and the Victim and Witness Assistance Programs. Students wishing to pursue charges through the University can do so through the Sexual Misconduct Board. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students by phone at 434-924-7133 or by visiting these websites: www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence or www.virginia.edu/uvapolice.
Remember that as you make plans for an evening out with friends, safety should be a key part of those plans. Make sure everyone knows how getting to and from an event will occur. Which routes will be taken? How one will reconnect to all members of the group before leaving. What method will be employed for checking on everyone's well-being in the group? And in case of an emergency, where will you go and who will you call?
Please take all necessary steps to protect yourself and each other, and know that you should never hesitate to call 911.
Michael A. Gibson Chief of University of Virginia Police
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