After an alleged anti-gay attack took place on campus earlier this month, University of Maine officials offered safety tips to students and the general UMaine community in a crime alert.
A suspect described as a “tall white male with short brown hair” reportedly grabbed a woman on the University Mall, “briefly choked her, yelled a slur at her for wearing a pride shirt,” and then took off.
In the alert, the university said “Try always to find a friend to accompany you outside late at night, even when planning to be out just a short time […] Be mindful of your surroundings and place a safe distance between you and potential hiding places. Report any and all suspicious people and incidents to the police immediately.”
This statement was “not entirely comforting” to some in the UMaine community, according to the Maine Campus.
Fourth-year Jordan Bessette claimed it is “dangerous” to be perceived as “anything other than straight” at UMaine. “You don’t know who else on campus shares those ideals, and could have been emboldened by his actions,” she said.
Fifth-year student Camryn Chick said the alert didn’t make much sense considering the attack took place at five in the afternoon on the “busiest part of campus.” She also said that male students who matched the description of the attacker should not be allowed to “walk free” on campus.
Rob Jackson from the UMaine Office for Diversity and Inclusion also released a statement in response to the act. Jackson begins by addressing the larger question of how to move forward from an event like this, citing the usual increase in pride flags or Safe Zone training, as not being sufficient in combating the issue.
“They do not speak to the root issue. The reality is, acts like this happen because we as a community allow them to. We say things like ‘this is not who we are’ or ‘hate is not one of our values,’ but those words ring hollow if they aren’t combined with active, consistent efforts to create and maintain a culture that does not tolerate discrimination,” Jackson wrote in a newsletter to the student body. …
“First, speak up when you see or hear people engaging in homophobic or transphobic behavior,” Jackson suggests. “Check in with your LGBTQ+ friends and ask how you can support them… Donate your time and money to organizations that provide support and advocacy for LGBTQ+ folks here in Maine and elsewhere.
Chick’s point about the assault occurring during the busiest time of the day notwithstanding, no suspect has yet been found.
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