An attack in broad daylight at York University is raising fresh questions about security measures at the sprawling campus north of Toronto.
A series of sexual assaults and robberies have made safety and violence against women top-of-mind issues at the university in recent years. The latest incident is particularly troubling because the woman appears to have done everything she could to ward off her attacker.
The assault on the 20-year-old York student was captured on surveillance cameras, according to police, but it is not clear whether security staff were monitoring them. A 30-year-old man, who is not at student at the school, was arrested on the weekend and sexual assault charges have been laid. Police have not released his name.
The victim was allegedly assaulted twice at 4 o'clock last Thursday afternoon in the main hall of the Seneca College building at the university's Keele campus.
"We were quite alarmed at the tenacity and brashness that this guy showed in hounding her and later assaulting her," Detective Andrew Kis of Toronto Police Services said in an interview.
Toronto Police said the woman was walking to the building when she became aware that someone was following her. Once inside the building, the man attacked her in the main hall. The woman tried to escape by going into an office in search of a teacher, police said. They say the man continued to follow her and assaulted her a second time in the hall. Police said her attacker fled after she ran into another office, closing the door behind her.
It was by happenstance that police were able to make an arrest so quickly. The description of the accused matched that of a man who was questioned by an off-duty police officer on Thursday afternoon, after two women complained he was following them. The officer, who was performing paid duties that day at a construction site, took down the man's name and address.
On Saturday, when the officer returned to his regular police duties, he discovered that the man had been named in another incident that took place at noon the same Thursday. As a result, the man is also facing indecent exposure charges in connection with the earlier incident.
Students, staff and faculty at York University are still coming to terms with the case of a student who was killed last month in a horrific incident partly witnessed on a webcam by her boyfriend.
York spokesman Wallace Pidgeon said Seneca operates its own security service at the university and he declined to comment further on the incident.
"Because this is a police matter, I would ask you to contact the Toronto Police Service," Mr. Pidgeon said.
York announced last month that it has increased security patrols on its Keele campus following the death of Liu Qian, an international student from China. Police officers patrol the campus from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., the university said.
But the York Federation of Students argues that the university has not done enough to beef up security off campus, where many students live in an area known as The Village.
Two years ago, the university commissioned a campus safety audit, which found that York is not doing enough to protect students from sexual assault, leaving more than a third of students feeling "unsafe" or "very unsafe" on campus.
York says it has invested about $9-million on safety and security measures this year, following the audit, prepared by the university in partnership with the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children.
York Federation of Students vice-president Siva Vimalachandran said on Sunday that the university must accept it also has responsibility to ensure the safety of students not just on campus but in the adjacent community as well.
"The fact that the university is still dragging its feet on implementing any tangible solutions to addressing these issues of safety in the community is most troubling," he said in an interview.