Some college kids in the Queen City are being welcomed back to campus with a warning. On Tuesday UVM issued an alert after a woman was sexually assaulted near a popular off-campus neighborhood.
"In a very real sense we put it out because we're concerned for folks being aware of what's happening out there," said Capt. Tim Bilodeau of the UVM Police Department.
Police say the woman was walking alone early Monday morning on Main Street between South Williams and South Prospect, when she was grabbed by a stranger, attacked and sexually assaulted. Police say the assault went beyond a groping and the suspect is still on the loose.
"Stuff like this happens everywhere. You can't assume that it's not going to happen because it's not a big city," said Lauren Willigan, a UVM junior. "My friends and I are always down here at night, so the walk home is definitely something that we have to worry about now."
The suspect is described as a white man in his mid-20s, about 6' tall, with thin lips and lanky limbs. Police say the man has a distinct haircut and they're hoping a sketch of the style will help identify him. They're also examining a pair of flip-flops left near the scene that they believe may belong to the attacker.
"We've only been on this for this week. We have a lot of resources invested in this. We are following a number of different investigative avenues. I'm confident that we're headed in the right direction," said Lt. Kris Carlson of the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations.
In the meantime, authorities are warning women to be careful and college police urge students to take advantage of security resources. Blue lights are scattered around UVM's campus. Police say students should use them or their cellphones to call for help. If they're off campus they should call the Burlington Police Department.
"If you feel like you are in an uncomfortable situation or you're not sure about a situation, trust those instincts, get help and most certainly call the police," Carlson said.
Advice that's changing the way college students think about their environment.
"It's hard always finding someone to walk home with, but it's necessary because this happens and it's just like a wake-up call really... for all of us," Willigan said.
Police continue to investigate whether this attack is linked to any other incidents in the area.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations 802-652-6800.
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