Sexual Violence Escalates in Rogers Park

Madeline Kenney | The PHOENIXTwo of the three sexual crime incidents reported by students occurred on North Winthrop Avenue.

A Loyola student was sexually assaulted off campus, according to a recent report filed with Campus Safety, in the latest troubling incident of sexual violence against students and staff.

So far this month, Campus Safety has received four reports of sexual abuse, which Illinois law defines as “an act of sexual conduct by the use of force or threat of force.” This means most of the victims — all of which are members of the Loyola community — were groped.

Of those four crimes, three were reported by students and one was reported by a Loyola faculty member.

The sexual assault, also known as rape, according to Illinois law, was listed in Campus Safety’s report for the week of Sept. 13-18. A student reported on Sept. 16 being the victim of a sexual assault at an unknown address on Devon Avenue to Campus Safety. Campus Safety described the report as delayed and did not include the time the assault took place.

This is the second reported time since August a student has been sexually assaulted, according to Campus Safety reports. Just before the start of the fall semester on Aug. 26, a Loyola student reported being the victim of a sexual assault in Lakeview at about 2 a.m.

Meanwhile, the recent series of reported sexual abuses are causing concern for students on the south side of the Lake Shore Campus. Of the three incidents reported by students, two occurred on North Winthrop Avenue, where nine Loyola residence halls are located.

The first student reported being groped by a man who was on a light gray bicycle near Simpson Hall (6333 N. Winthrop Ave.) on Sept. 7 at 1 a.m. The student was able to break free and contact Campus Safety from Simpson Hall while the offender fled north toward Sheridan Road.

Campus Safety alerted the Loyola community of the incident via email the next morning at 10 a.m. and described the suspect as a 20- to 25-year-old man with black hair and a black beard, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 160 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black headband, cargo shorts and a black backpack.

A second student said she was sexually abused on North Winthrop Avenue near Seattle Hall (6313 N. Winthrop Ave.) at 10:35 p.m. on Sept. 18. Campus Safety alerted the Loyola community with another email the following morning at 8 a.m.

The student was walking by two men who were leaning against a fence when one of the men groped her. She continued walking and contacted Campus Safety, according to the alert.

The student was unsure which man touched her, but she described one as a 20- to 25-year-old man, 6 feet 1 inch tall, weighing 150 pounds and wearing a red striped tank top and cargo shorts, according to the email.

The second suspect was described as a man in his 20s, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 200 pounds and wearing a black shirt, black shorts and a black baseball cap.

Kathy Balnius, a senior who lives in an off-campus apartment on the 6300 block of North Winthrop Avenue, said she thought she would be safer living on the south side of the Lake Shore Campus surrounded by dorms.

“The scary thing is that these aren’t happening late at night; they are happening during the daylight. I don’t feel not safe but I am starting to worry,” the 21-year-old biochemistry major said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It happens at other places too, but I don’t want it to happen here at all.”

Balnius said she was unsure of what Loyola could do to make campus safer, but she suggested increasing security. In the meantime, Balnius said she has started texting friends when she leaves campus to walk down North Winthrop Avenue and letting them know when she safely arrives home.

When asked if Campus Safety would change patrols in light of the crimes on North Winthrop Avenue, Sgt. Tim Cunningham said the department uses “directed patrols based on incidents occurring in the neighborhood to insure the best possible response.”

The two other sexual abuse reports were filed after Campus Safety sent out the alert regarding the Sept. 7 crime.

One student reported being sexually abused on campus near Sean Earl Field, and a Loyola staff remember reported that she was sexually abused near North Ashland Boulevard and West Greenleaf Avenue — about one mile northwest of the Lake Shore Campus.

Cunningham said his department encourages people to report crimes as soon as possible so that both law enforcement and the university can make the best possible response.

“Having said that, we recognize that sex offenses are very traumatic crimes that can put a survivor into a difficult place in deciding how to proceed,” said Cunningham. “If there is a hesitancy to report to law enforcement we strongly suggest the person goes for medical evaluation as soon as possible to insure there are no concerns.”

Cunningham also said any survivor of sexual violence should be encouraged to seek out resources such as the Loyola Sexual Assault Advocacy Line (773-494-3810) or the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline (888-293-2080).

Rogers Park has seen a 36 percent increase in criminal sexual assaults this year compared to 2015, according to Chicago Police Department data, with 45 total reports of criminal sexual assault.

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