London, Ont. police investigating sexual assault allegations at Western University
The London Police Service says an investigation is underway after allegations of multiple sexual assaults at a Western University residence began circulating on social media over the weekend.
Rumours have been circulating on social media about unconfirmed reports of up to 30 female students were allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted.
A letter was sent to residents at Medway-Sydenham Hall on Saturday from student housing officials saying the school was following up on the reports.
Now, London police say they are aware of the allegations, but have not yet received any reports from the weekend involving incidents at the residence.
But the statement continued, "Given the seriousness of the allegations raised in relation to incidents occurring at Medway-Sydenham Hall, the London Police Service has opened an investigation and we will work collaboratively with Western University to identify and support any victims and ensure a thorough investigation is conducted."
Police officials say they received two reports alleging sexual assaults at other locations on campus last week. Both remain under investigation, and police say that will include examining any potential links to unreported incidents.
Chris Alleyne, Western University's associate vice-president of Housing and Ancillary Services, released a statement Monday saying they are working to get additional information on the alleged sexual assaults.
"We are very troubled by the incidents reported over social media this past weekend. We are working hard to clarify and confirm these reports. So far, we have received very little information related to these reports, and we’re asking anyone with more details to come forward to Western or London Police Services."
He added that Western has received four formal allegations of sexual violence in the past week, but that the cases do not appear to be connected.
In those cases Alleyne says Western immediately took strong action when complaints were filed, including facilitating arrest and removing students who remain under investigation.
"I can’t emphasize enough that sexual violence will never be tolerated at Western. We will continue to take action on every disclosure and complaint."
The school has increased guest registration, security and counselling, and there are a number of resources available for any student in need of support due to sexual violence.
Students on edge
The officially reported assaults, rumours of potentially dozens more, and the slow response has students concerned.
First-year political science student Alexa Decassan lives in the Medway residence and says there is a lot of fear.
"It's very disturbing that this is my first year here, it hasn't even been a week and this is already happening. And what I've been hearing is Western's been saying that they're going to up their security. To my extent I haven't really seen much of that, and it is very uncomfortable, like sleeping. Like a lot of the girls on my floor were quite scared, to be honest."
And other students are also unsatisfied with the university's response to the allegations.
Daniel Oyefugea is a first-year student at Western who lives in the Sydenham residence and says women are getting mixed messages about coming forward.
"This is part of the problem. First it was we don't have enough women coming forward, and then when they're coming forward, it doesn't happen...you're going to have future women who don't want to come out because of things like this."
Western Associate Law Professor Jacob Shelley says bringing so many people together during the pandemic facilitated a toxic environment.
"This is kind of a predictable storm and we've seen this happening across campuses in this country getting together having giant parties. Mix together that kind of energy, with alcohol, drugs, unfortunately the reality is bad things may happen and for far too long we don't immediately react or react strongly enough to gender-based violence."