Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated SAPAC’s crisis line is intended to help students who feel threatened or endangered, but instead students should call DPS in that situation. The previous headline for this article also incorrectly implied all the assaults happened on campus.
A recent string of assaults in Ann Arbor has prompted the Ann Arbor Police Department and Department of Public Safety to work together in order to ensure student safety as they search for suspects related to various assaults in the area.
In addition to leading to increased security measures on campus, the assaults have also prompted women on campus to speak up about past incidents of sexual assault, according to Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University. However, she said the series of incidents do not necessarily represent an increase in sexual assault rates in the community, since typically most attacks do not end up being reported.
“While these sexual assaults are devastating to our community, we should not necessarily interpret it as an increase in sexual assaults because the reporting rate for these crimes is so very low,” Rider-Milkovich said.
She added that more sexual assault victims have reached out to SAPAC in recent days, which she believes is related to the publicity of these attacks.
“We have heard from a lot of survivors of sexual assault in the past week who have heard about or read about the recent sexual assaults and who have experienced an emotional impact from that information,” Rider-Milkovich said.
“It is certainly common for survivors of sexual assault to experience emotional distress or potentially re-live parts of their own experience when they read about or hear about a sexual assault happening to another.”
The assaults began on July 15 at about 10 p.m., when an assailant reportedly grabbed a 21-year-old woman by the neck from behind before she was able to escape, according to Lieutenant Renee Bush of the Ann Arbor Police Department in an interview with The Michigan Daily on July 21.
In this particular case, the victim reported the assailant to be a white male of medium-build, standing at 5 feet 7 inches with short, brown hair.
The second assault happened about an hour later on the 400 block of North Division Street near Community High School when an assailant pulled a woman into a dark area before she managed to break free. According to Lieutenant Myron Blackwell, the AAPD believes this incident is connected to a third assault that occurred at about 2 a.m. on Greenwood Avenue in which a DPS crime alert reported that the assailant lifted a woman’s skirt and fondled her before she also managed to escape.
The two victims described the assailant in both incidences as a male in his early twenties with an olive complexion, standing at 5 feet 7 inches.
On July 18, two more sexual assaults occurred. The fourth assault, in which an assailant raped an 18-year-old woman in an alley, occurred at about 12:40 a.m. across from Weill Hall near State Street.
AAPD released a composite sketch of the perpetrator of this attack, who is described as a white male with brown hair and brown eyes, standing between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 inches.
The fifth assault, a second report of rape, took place in an elevator at the Liberty Square parking structure around 10:30 p.m. on the same day. Though this last incident happened on Monday evening, it was not reported until Thursday.
The final assailant is described as a white male with short, dark hair who stands around 5 feet 6 inches, according to an interview with Lieutenant Renee Bush as reported by AnnArbor.com.
In response to the string of assaults, DPS Police Chief Joe Piersante said the department has responded to the attacks by increasing police presence on Central Campus and collaborating with AAPD to share information and resources, according to a University Record press release.
“We work as partners with the AAPD and attempt to seamlessly provide the services our community members need,” Piersante said.
Rider-Milkovich encourages University community members to call the SAPAC 24-hour sexual assault crisis line at 734-936-3333 if they need emotional support, advocacy or crisis intervention.