November 19, 2012
Students involved with the Queer Student Union at the University of Virginia say hate crimes are a problem on college campuses across the country, with many attacks going unreported.
"It's a big problem in the queer community across the United States and definitely here at our university," said third-year student Abe Wapner. "Sometimes these attacks go unreported and people don't always want to contact the police or tell their friends or explain why this happened to them."
The latest example of hate crimes at UVa occurred last Thursday night. UVa police say the suspect allegedly struck the student in the face near Brooks Hall and continued walking toward the Corner. The alleged victim was treated for minor injuries.Police say the incident may have been motivated by the alleged victim's sexual orientation.
"Often we hear we shouldn't be telling people how to defend themselves and we should emphasize to people that they shouldn't be assaulting or raping people and while that is important, I feel that it's necessary people know how to defend themselves on a basic level just so they can feel safe walking around grounds," said Blake Calhoun, a second-year student at UVa. Both Calhoun and Wapner are members of the Queer Student Union at UVa, a student-run organization with over 250 members.
QSU members say they are tired of hearing of hate crimes happening on grounds and want to take action. Their first move is substituting the group's regular meeting on Thursday with a self-defense class. But members say that's just the first step and they hope this will serve as a wake up call to administrators.
"Administration should take an interest," said Calhoun. "This is our university and ultimately what happens at this university is a reflection of us and what we tolerate and what we accept so it's very important for the university to take a stake in it's community."
Meanwhile, the search for the suspect in the alleged hate crime continues. Police describe the suspect as a man with dirty blond hair, possibly a goatee. They say he's about 5' 10" tall and between 150 and 160 pounds.
Police ask anyone with information on the alleged assault to call Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.