London, Ont. police address allegations of sexual assault at Western University

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday addressing rumours spreading on social media, London, Ont.’s chief of police, along with the president of Western University, vowed to investigate all complaints of sexual violence.

The pledge comes amid unconfirmed but widely shared rumours on social media that up to 30 female students were allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted on campus.

The London Police Service says it is aware of the allegations, but has not yet received any formal complaints.

"London Police Service along with community partners will support those who come forward," said Chief Steve Williams. "There is no room for gender-based violence in our community."

A letter was sent to residents at Medway-Sydenham Hall on Saturday from student housing officials saying the school was following up on the allegations.

Williams says police have received three separate complaints involving four females that allegedly took place in other campus locations, prior to the Medway-Sydenham Hall allegations.

According to Williams, one man was arrested in connection with those complaints, but is no longer in custody and no charges have been laid.

Also speaking on Tuesday, Western University President Alan Shepard said, "These events do not reflect Western's values and they are not the Western experience we want for our students."

Lyna Matti is a first-year student at Western and tells CTV News London she’s shocked every time she opens her phone.

“I see it all over my phone, all over social media and every time I open my phone like there's something more like I heard that someone's in the ICU, and like, there's another person in the hospital,” she says. “It's almost hard to determine what's real and what's rumours and because it is, it has been a bit crazy the last few days, especially just with (Orientation) Week in general, like we all expected it to just be all fun and just crazy and partying but now look at what’s happening.”

When it comes to helping potential victims, Jennifer Dunn of the London Abused Women’s Centre says they are there to support women and girls.

“We are here in the community to provide support for women and girls. And so we're very happy when women and girls do reach out for that support,” she adds.

AnnaLise Trudel is the manager of Education and Training Research at Anova — a London, Ont.- based organization that supports victims of gender-based violence.

She says they have had students as well as parents recently reach out to the 24-hour crisis line in the city.

“We're always there 24-7 to offer crisis support but we also offer clinical counselling support, so folks can sign up to do that work with our counsellors, either via Zoom or in person,” Trudel said.

“But we've also been really present in terms of being part of the larger conversation that's happening around this issue both on social media and in person. A lot of people are processing this and wanting to make meaning of what's all happening and we're sort of diving into that space as well.”

The minister responsible for colleges and universities in Ontario has also released a statement following the alleged assaults and violence at Western.

"The Ontario government strongly condemns all forms of violence and believes that all students deserve to feel safe on and off campus. As Minister of Colleges and Universities and a mother of postsecondary students, I am extremely concerned by the incidents of sexual violence reported by students at Western University," said Minister Jill Dunlop.

"I want to thank survivors who have come forward and encourage any other individuals with information to contact their local law enforcement. Together, we have a responsibility to listen to and support survivors of sexual violence."

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