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Violence, fear of sexual assault mark the grim start of the Western University school year

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Breakfast in London7:14Investigation of multiple allegations of sexual violence at Western University

CBC reporter Kate Dubinski joins London Morning with the latest in an ongoing investigation into multiple allegations of sexual violence following the week-long celebrations at Western University. 7:14

Students, including themselves for the first time, say they are concerned about possible sexual violence on the campus of West University in London, Ont., After a number of reports to officials and on social media.

These fears are reinforced by the death of a first-year student, Gabriel Neil, 18, following an off-campus attack Saturday night, as well as out-of-control parties in student quarters.

“I’m a little nervous, and my parents are nervous and upset. It’s a little scary,” said first-year student Calista Coleman.

“There’s all this going on and then adjusting to being in a new place alone, it’s scary.”

We are asking our campus community to come up with any information it has.– Chris Alleyne, Vice President of Western University for Housing and Aid Services

Western University is investigating reports of sexual violence reported on social media mainly on the TikTok video-sharing app, but has received little information, officials said.

They said four reports unrelated to sexual violence were received last week.

First-year students are returning to live in the residence, and sophomores took lessons online last year, creating a dual group of young people who adapt to living away from home after a year of pandemic restrictions.

‘None of this is okay’

Off-campus parties have spiraled out of control, and students living in Sydenham Hall and other on-campus residences have described a chaotic weekend that wrapped up orientation week.

It all prompted a warning from London Mayor Ed Holder.

“What the hell are they thinking? None of this is okay and can not be hidden underground and ignored. This is incredibly serious,” Holder said.

Female students say they are concerned about their safety and male students are expressing concern about their female friends.

The university is trying to speak directly to students in the residence and is encouraging people to come up with any information they may have. (Kate Dubinski / CBC)

“A lot of things just happened in the last day or two,” said first-year student Emily Whitehouse. “It’s scary. I want the university to come down on it.”

Some of the rumors on social media are focused on domestic violence, making an sometimes difficult adaptation to living away from home a frightening experience, said Chelsea Flagler, who has just started in Western and is from Kingston, Ont.

“We feel like we have to look at the back,” she said. “We are getting it day by day, but it is everywhere on campus, it is in our building that is our home.”

West University, along with London police, were studying the students door-to-door, asking what they had seen and heard, said Chris Alleyne, one of the school’s vice-presidents.

“We are asking our campus community to come up with any information they have about what is available online.”

He said the school has made counselors available to students and has a program aimed at male students that deals with consent and healthy relationships.

“I think this environment is challenging, especially for women and this particular age group, because of the pervasive nature of gender-based violence in society,” Alleyne said.

“I think sexual violence is pervasive in society. The West is reflective of the wider society and of course we have the opportunity to educate our students about consent issues.”

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