Towson students meet to confront rape problem

November 06, 1990|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

Devra Dowd, a junior at Towson State University, says she's terrified to walk in the parking garages on campus.

"I ran to my car Friday," Dowd, 21, said yesterday. "I was afraid somebody was going to attack me."

Since then, she has avoided the two dimly lit garages, and instead parked in well-lit areas around campus. Dowd said she is "still shaking" because of the fear she felt when she parked her car alone Friday.

Yesterday, Dowd joined more than 100 concerned faculty members and students, mostly women, at the University Union building to discuss ways to increase safety for students following a rape last week. It was the university's second reported rape in less than four months.

About noon on Thursday, a 20-year-old commuter student was abducted from the fifth level of the Towson Towne Parking Garage. She was abducted in her 1980 Chevrolet Chevette and driven 20 miles to a wooded area off Mount Zion Road near Falls Road, where she was raped at knifepoint, said Towson Police Chief Stephen Murphy.

"The attacker left her alone in the woods and fled in her car," which was later found in a lower level of the same garage, Murphy said. The student went to a nearby house and told the resident, who notified police.

Since then, police have been following leads but have made no arrests, Murphy said. He said the victim did not know her attacker.

The rapist is described as a white male in his 20s, 5-foot-10, with a medium build and light brown hair. He was last seen wearing an Oxford-style light blue shirt and blue jeans.

On July 26, a 21-year-old student was raped in her dormitory room, Murphy said.

"We don't want people to panic," he said later in an interview. "But be alert."

Murphy told the group to walk in pairs and in well-lit areas and use the 12 emergency telephones that are in the garages and directly linked to campus police. But several students said the phones wouldn't be easily accessible in case of an attack.

Murphy also suggested students use the school's escort service, which has provided 2,394 rides since Sept. 4.

The meeting was low key, but several students became upset when Murphy said there are only 28 officers filling 33 assigned positions. On the average, he said, there are three officers patrolling the 320-acre school, which has 15,000 students.

One student called it "ridiculous" that the university is discussing ways to save the football team, and won't improve security. "Something needs to be done here," she said.

Murphy later said: "There are no walls around this place to keep criminals off this campus."

Meanwhile, Student Government Association officers suggested pairing students and faculty members to patrol the campus in a crime-watch patrol. The program could start within the next two weeks.

Others suggested distributing whistles to students for use in the event of emergencies.

"They would cost about 42 cents to 43 cents apiece," said Chad Gobel, 19, an SGA senator.

Gobel said SGA is looking for corporate sponsorship to cover the costs. Believing SGA will find the sponsorship by next year, SGA plans to distribute the whistles during a safety-awareness week between Feb. 4 and Feb. 8, 1991.

Dowd said she doubts the whistles will help.

"I think if you blow a whistle while somebody tries to rape you, he'll probably stab you," she told the audience. "They won't work."

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